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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Manet and Modern Beauty by Edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom

Manet's last works have been severely under-rated because of their so-called 'chocolate boxy' qualities. The authors of these essays tell how Manet's yearning for beauty and love of fashion and women influenced these lovely paintings and study them in great detail.

This is an interesting book for art-lovers and a useful one for art students.

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Art of Resistance : My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir Justus Rosenberg

This is a fascinating story, but occasionally written in a dry style. Justus Rosenberg looks back on his exciting years in the Resistance and provides insights into the famous characters he met, such as Chagall and Peggy Guggenheim in this amazing tale of daring and courage, against all odds.

When he was only a teenager, Rosenberg looked forward to going to the prestigious Sorbonne from his homeland in Poland.  He enjoyed his time studying in Paris where he learned fluent French but he didn't realise when he left Poland that he would be heading into the maelstrom as the Nazis leapt to power.  Ability and luck together with his blue eyes and blonde hair saved him from many dire situations, until he started work for the legend of the Resistance, Varian Fry, in Marseille.  Fry had a huge underground network helping anti-Nazi intellectuals and artists escape Vichy France. Here, Rosenberg met strange characters, such as the heiress Mary-Jayne Gold whose gangster boyfriend apparently helped provide money for the network! He also met Lisa Fittko who helped people escape across the Pyrenees.

The most dramatic scene in the book occurs when Rosenberg is arrested and jailed. Fearing a terrible death in a concentration camp, he follows the advice to pretend to be sick and ends up in hospital with his appendix taken out! A priest helps to save him, and he starts work in a Resistance cell learning to fight the Germans...

Justus Rosenberg is now a professor of Literature at 96 and still teaches occasionally. He was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French government for his services in the Resistance.

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit Author of The Railway Children by Eleanor Fitzsimons

Edith Nesbit, Wikipedia

I loved The Railway Children and read it time and time again when I was young, so I was keen to read this biography. Edith Nesbit certainly had a fascinating life, but not an easy one, and I really enjoyed the book.

Fitzsimons has researched Edith's life thoroughly and provides an account which is extremely detailed and quite long, but never dull.  She was a rather formidable woman who not only wrote children's books which are still highly regarded today, but also managed to provide for a large family, and actually do a lot to help poor children. She and her husband also belonged to a very intellectual and arty 'set,' which included such people as Shaw and Cyril Chesterton.

Probably, some readers in the 'Me Too' era will wonder why she put up with her handsome, but philandering husband, who even had some children with her friend. They lived in a strange 'menage a' trois' for a time. However, she seemed to be happy with him to some extent, and they were both rather bohemian Fabians with modern philosophies, such as free love and a belief in vegetarianism.

Fitzsimons analyses the background to Nesbit's books so this is a useful book to keep for those who want to read them again, or read them for the first time.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Catholic Hipster: The Next Level How Some Awesomely Obscure Stuff Helps Us Live Our Faith with Passion by Tommy Tighe

Mother Teresa once told a group of priests: "Celebrate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass". Tommy Tighe has written a beautiful exposition on this statement. It is probably easier for converts to do this, even if their first Mass was way back in their adolescence or even childhood, but great advice for everyone.  This book is full of excellent advice for how to live your Catholic faith, interesting anecdotes about saints and suggestions for prayers. I loved it.

However, it is directed mostly to a young American audience. At the risk of being thought old-fashioned, I think that some of  the advice was really too self-consciously 'cool'. For example, I didn't agree with the suggestion about considering a religious tattoo.  The fashion of tattoos comes and goes over the years, and it can still be dangerous to get one, and a risk to career prospects, as well. Apparently, it can be even more dangerous to get tattoos removed!

Apart from this, it is a great book for all Catholics.

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Christmas Book by Andy Thomas

Did you know that Christmas was once banned in England and Scotland, or that Queen Charlotte introduced the Christmas tree to Great Britain? Andy Thomas relates these stories, and other interesting facts about Christmas in this charming and interesting book about the history of Christmas.  I knew a lot about the history of Christmas already, but I learned even more from this book. 

Thomas writes from a secular point of view, and annoyed me by using the modern abbreviations BCE and CE for B.C. and A.D. He also focuses somewhat on the Roman and pagan origins of Christmas. However, if you want to read more about the history of Christmas traditions, such as wassailing, carol-singing and Christmas greenery, this is a great book. I liked the illustrations as well.

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Becoming C. S. Lewis A Biography of Young Jack Lewis (1898–1918) by Harry Lee Poe

C.S. Lewis concentrated heavily on his incredibly harrowing school days in his autobiography, yet many biographers think that their effect on him has been exaggerated! Professor Poe noticed this, and decided to restore Lewis's young life back into prominence. This was when his tastes and dislikes were formed - the older C.S. Lewis still liked and disliked the same things. This was also when he read the books which eventually led him to Christianity.

Poe delves deeply into Lewis's dark school days, his relationships with his father and brother, his friendship with Arthur Greeves and his atheism and conversion.  He spends much of the book Lewis's reading and how it influenced him to become a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and, more importantly, to become a Christian.  The conflict between the materialist philosophy and atheism of his teacher and his spiritual leanings is especially interesting, although heavy.

Any fan of C.S. Lewis will enjoy this deeply thought-out and insightful look at the great man. I am sure that Lewis himself would be pleased with this book!

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cozy : The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World by Isabel Gillies

Coziness isn’t just about hot chocolate or roasting chestnuts on a fire, according to Isabel Gillies.        It is also about finding your authentic self, discovering your purpose in life, and what you enjoy most. It also means finding something to hang on to, and finding order and peace in the midst of chaos. Even when everything is collapsing around you, it is still possible to find some vestige of coziness!

It can even help to save your life, Gillies argues. When the amazing explorer Shackleton’s schooner sank in Antarctica in 1914, he and his nineteen crew members survived for another two years until they were rescued.  According to an article that Gillies quotes, Shackleton knew that his greatest enemies were severe anxiety, disengagement and pessimism.  He had to keep the cosiness. He did this by trying to keep warm, being organised, keeping journals, making lists and finding structure to help everyone survive the ordeal.

This is one of the most enjoyable and helpful self-help books I’ve read.  Gillies has a lovely, engaging style, and it is worth dipping into often!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Little Women Cookbook Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family by Wini Moranville; Louisa May Alcott Quarto Publishing Group – Harvard Common Press

Food plays a big role in Little Women.  It features on occasions of love and affection, such as family gatherings and friendly picnics, and it is also there to help provide sympathy and comfort. Food is also used on different occasions in the book, such as when poor Amy submits to peer pressure, and takes pickled limes to school - the latest trend.

The authors have researched historical recipes, and combined them with modern ones with attractive, mouth-watering pictures. Imagine that you are Jo on a family picnic with roast beef sandwiches or Amy eating richer French recipes! Most of the recipes look fairly easy, even for those who are not good cooks.

This book is enchanting, and I look forward to trying some of the recipes.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Indistractable How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

When a young academic bought herself a pedometer, she started becoming obsessed with walking. She found herself walking up and down stairs in the middle of the night, playing walking 'games' and even entering competitions. This affected her work and her marriage. Luckily, she began to realise that this was an escape from other problems and started to slowly.overcome her addiction.

Usually, distractions like this are an escape, and it is important to work out what the real problems are. Eyall gives great advice on how to do this in this useful book, especially on how to stop being distracted by the ubiquitous social media. He also provides advice on raising 'Indistractable' kids. I found this very helpful.

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

The First Lady and the Rebel A Novel by Susan Higginbotham SOURCEBOOKS Landmark

I enjoyed this moving story of Mary Lincoln and her rebel family very much. All that I knew ábout her before reading this captivating historical novel was that she came from the South, and she suffered from mental illness. Susan Higginbotham brings her to life, and she also tells the tales of her half-sisters who actually married men who fought for the Confederacy! As Lincoln himself said, America was truly a 'house divided'.

It would have been easier to just tell Mary's story, because many readers may find it difficult to sympathize with Emily and Elodie Todd. However, Higginbotham manages to show all points of view, and she made me interested in learning more about this complicated family.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop by Elaine Roberts Aria

This is a heartwarming family saga with engaging characters, interesting details about working in a bookshop during the Great War, and a touch of romance. Elaine Roberts captures the atmosphere of wartime London well, although she sometimes has the characters use jarring modern expressions. Unfortunately, this is really the kind of book which should be read as a paperback - Kindle didn't suit it, I thought.

This is really the story of Victoria who is struggling with getting over her parent's death and not hearing from her boyfriend Ted, a soldier in the war. Luckily, Victoria has her sisters and good friends to help her, but when they assist her to finally clean out her parent's bedroom, she discovers a family mystery which may be more than even she can cope with...

I really enjoyed this story of love and friendship. This is the last one in a trilogy, so I am anxious to read the rest now!

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

Friday, October 04, 2019

Living with Coco Chanel The homes and landscapes that shaped the designer by Caroline Young

I love to read about Chanel,although she was a collaborator, and this book is no exception. It describes Chanel's life and how the places where she lived and her lovers influenced her fashion designs in intricate detail, with interesting quotes and anecdotes. The main influence on Chanel was the stark convent high in the hills where she was sent as a teenager, with its mosaic floors and simple patterns. She loved black, white and beige, the colours of the convent, and often designed black and white dresses, influenced by the nun's habits.

However, some of her lovers were aristocratic Englishmen, who also inspired her designs. For example, the Duke of Westminster took her to Scotland where she learned how to incorporate tweed and boucle material into her designs. Boy Capel took her sailing and she designed clothes influenced by the world of sailing. She used to go hunting, and she also played golf and tennis with her aristocratic friends and soon realized that modern working women wanted fashionable, but comfortable clothes so that they could move easily.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in Chanel.

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

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Song in the Daylight by Paullina Simons

Larissa Stark has a lovely husband and three very good children, but she is busy, tired, and feels that her husband takes her for granted at times, and she is also suffering from a mid-life crisis. She is forty, but looks about twenty. When her husband buys her a Jag for her birthday, she finds herself attracted to the young and surprisingly mature salesman. They start meeting for lunch, but, of course, that's not enough, and Larissa soon finds herself having a torrid affair. It really is torrid - there are pages of it!

This leads to her neglecting her husband and children and her best friend in the Philippines, who is having a terrible time, and another friend who needs a kidney transplant. Larissa soon finds out what 'a terrible web we weave...'At one stage, she sneaks out to meet Kai for dinner in NY only to run into a friend in NY. Fearful of discovery, she pretends that she hardly knows Kai, who is very upset, and catches the train back to Summit with her friend.

Larissa eventually has to make a choice, and learn that there is a price to pay for doing exactly what one likes.

I almost gave this book up because it was a bit anti-Catholic at the beginning (the author makes up for this), but I persevered, and although it could have been just another steamy airport novel, it actually raises big questions about the meaning of life, the selfishness of modern life, the difference between true love and infatuation and the significance of marriage. Also, I like Paullina Simons's writing and her many literary references. I have also enjoyed some of her other books.

Clementine Churchill A Life in Pictures by Sonia Purnell

Clementine Churchill had to face the hardest decision of her life. The doctor had warned her that her husband, the PM, had a heart condition which could cause his death, and Great Britain was in the middle of a dreadful war. Should she tell Winston?

Clementine was a highly political wife whose role in supporting her husband and, indeed, in playing her own part, has been vastly underestimated. Sonia Purnell details the wonderful work that she did, including raising a vast amount for the Red Cross to help the people of Russia and being the president of the YWCA. The marriage was often difficult, and she even felt that she needed to escape from Winston's bad temper a lot, but it remained very strong. Clementine apparently had failings as a mother, however.

This was an interesting book, accompanied by photographs from the time. I would like to read much more about Clementine Churchill.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

This Is Happiness by Niall Williams

This is a lyrical and very Irish coming-of-age story, well-worth reading.

The story begins when Noe looks back at his youth, and remembers his path to maturity. It takes a leap back in time to when he decided to leave the seminary, and found himself at a loss. He stayed with his extremely old-fashioned grandparents in a  village which seemingly hadn't changed for centuries.  When Christy, a lodger, came to work on the electricity, and to search for his old love, Annie, Noe's life changed When he fell in love himself, he had to work out what was really important.

This is a beautifully-written, extremely evocative and moving book. You can almost see the misty sunshine and smell the freshly-mown grass in the Irish village. However, it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, and I am not a big fan of that kind of writing, so I found it difficult to read at times.

I read another book by Niall Williams many years ago, which I preferred.  I think that it was Four Letters of Love , which Mum also enjoyed.

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


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Church and the Roman Empire (AD 301–490) Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome by Mike Aquilina

This is a simply-written but lively history which dispels many myths about the early Christians, and includes lots of interesting characters and saints, such as Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine.  Aquilina explains the fight between true Christianity and heresies, such as Arianism, and gives a clear account of the several councils.  He tells the history as if it is a story, at times, making the different characters have conversations.

One myth concerns transubstantiation. According to Aquilina, the early Christians all believed in the Real Presence, and there were no arguments against it.  I found this especially interesting.

This book isn't like a textbook at all, and I will be keen to read the rest of the series, and more about some of the famous Christians mentioned in the book.

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

Simply Spaced Clear the Clutter and Style Your Life by Monica Leed

This is different from most decluttering books, because the author gives advice on style as well as tidying up.  It's very useful, and the worksheets are especially helpful, but I found it difficult to read as an  ebook. I may have to actually buy it!

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

Still, in the City: Creating Peace of Mind in the Midst of Urban Chaos Angela Dews (Edited by)

I was wanting a quick read about practising meditation and mindfulness in the city, if there is such a thing.  This is based on the principles of Buddhism and requires slow and careful reading. It is very useful, no doubt, but I didn't finish it.

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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Nuremberg Trials: Volume I Bringing the Leaders of Nazi Germany to Justice by Terry Burrows Arcturus Publishing

This is a clear and concise, but surprisingly eloquent account of the Nuremberg Trials. It is extremely difficult to read, however, because it is just so grim and horrific.  I couldn't even read some of it.  For example, children were actually thrown into the ovens at some of the concentration camps! The horrors are just never-ending.

I have read a lot about the war, but I didn't know that Russian PO W's were branded and deliberately malnourished, and that Tchaikovsky's and Tolstoy's houses were desecrated by the Nazis.

There was some criticism of these trials - that the laws were made by the victors, for example, and that the Axis powers were not signatories to all of the treaties and agreements in question.  However, as Robert Jackson pointed out in his closing speech, the defendants 'prepared and waged wars of aggression, rearming in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, and launching unprovoked attacks...' They also 'enslaved and plundered the populations of occupied countries...'and persecuted and murdered Jews and Christians'.  I agree with the conclusion that criticism of the judgments in the face of the horrific crimes which the Nazis committed is really just quibbling.

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

The Case of Miss Elliott: The Teahouse Detective: Volume 2 Baroness Orczy

This is an enjoyable, interessting and well-written set of detective stories. I found that I could only read a few at a time, however. Otherwise, they started to become a bit dry and repetitive, unfortunately. 

The book features 'the old man in the corner' who meets a young woman journalist in a coffee shop and solves a different case each time with reason and logic. This old man has watery blue eyes and a piece of string which he twists into knots as he tells her the stories, which range from the case of a poisoned horse and the robbery of expensive black diamonds to the murder of a young matron and other mysterious matters..  They are clever stories, but I would have liked to know a bit more about the young journalist.  Although I'd like to read all of the Baroness's detective stories, they don't have the magic of The Scarlet Pimpernel series.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

All That Glitters: Anna Wintour, Tina Brown, and the Rivalry Inside America’s Richest Media Empire Thomas Maier

Grace Mirabella, the editor of American Vogue, was a bit irritable one day so she asked one of her employees, Anna Wintour, which job she really wanted. Anna replied, 'Yours!' (That's the way to get ahead!) Everyone knows how this story ended.

This book is an excellent analysis of Conde Nast in the glittering, powerful magazine world of the late 80s and early 90s. It features the rivalry between Anna Wintour of Vogue and Tina Brown, who turned Vanity Fair around by focusing on celebrities and money, making the magazine extremely commercial. Lots of wealthy people, such as Donald Trump, get a look in. They were both extremely powerful career women, so it is surprising that two men, Si Newhouse and Alexander Liberman really pulled the strings.

This is a fascinating book.

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

Monday, September 09, 2019

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life Chase Jarvis

This is an inspiring book, which has excellent advice about why you should explore your creativity and how to focus on creative pursuits, instead of giving up.  Chase Jarvis also tells how he became a successful sports photographer and provides tips on how to get ahead in a creative career.  However, this book is worth reading even if you want to  draw or write in your spare time.

I do wonder if the author is really too optimistic. Not everyone can make money in a creative calling which they love - it requires talent as well as hard work.  However, it's a useful book to read with wise advice.

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

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Condé Nast The Man and His Empire -- A Biography by Susan Ronald

This is a fascinating biography of the great magazine publisher, who was a surprisingly charming and elegant man. It goes into great detail about his tough childhood, driving ambition, wonderful ability to spot talent and his marriages. He also had a huge fight with Randolph Hearst, his main competition.

Interesting characters, such as the femme fatale Claire Booth Luce, Edna Chase and Carmel Snow also fill its pages. The story which I really liked was how ambitious creative people had to meet Conde Nast by invitation or accidentally to get anywhere. Elizabeth Miller spotted him one day and he saved her from a traffic accident. She fainted in his arms and babbled uncontrollably when she came to, and he immediately saw that she epitomized the 'Modern Look'. Elizabeth Miller became... the famous war photographer Lee Miller.

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


 Format     ISBN9781250180025

PRICE      $32.50 (USD)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Deep Waters A British Library Crime Classic by Martin Edwards Poisoned Pen Press

This is a fascinating and enjoyable collection of detective and mystery stories involving the sea with an interesting introduction. The collection includes the first Sherlock Holmes story, a Dr Thorndike and other stories with famous detectives. It is a wide-ranging collection of tales concerning many different topics, which sometimes require complicated solutions, such as the one about the gold bullion. They are all extremely atmospheric - you can sometimes see and feel the deep fog spreading through the countryside.

Be warned. Some of these stories are quite creepy, such as the Case of the Silver Bride.

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


Monday, September 02, 2019

MacArthur’s Air Force by Bill Yenne

Many members of RSL Clubs in Australia might be astonished by General Macarthur's and General Kenny's opinion of the Australians in the Air Force. They considered them pretty useless, apparently. Luckily, they improved!

However, this book is mostly about the members of the American Air Force in the Pacific War. Although I found the battle for New Guinea the most interesting part of the book by far, because I am Australian, the account is well-researched and detailed. However, it is very technical and a reader who knows about all the different types of airplanes will find it more rewarding. Also, I found all the different divisions of the forces a bit confusing.

The book begins slowly, but becomes more interesting.

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wisdom for Living Learning to Follow Your Inner Guidance by Reynold Ruslan Feldman, Sharon Clark John Hunt Publishing Ltd

I am afraid that I found this difficult to get into. It is full of helpful advice, but I didn't find anything especially new in it. It is the kind of book which should be read slowly, however, and I probably have too many books to read at the moment!

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

What If God Wrote Your Shopping List? 52 Ways to Find Freedom from "Stuff" by Jay Payleitner

This is a simple, but useful book about deciding what your true priorities are, and not getting too attached to 'stuff'.  Jay Payleitner gives helpful advice from a Protestant Christian perspective, including lots of Biblical quotations. I found that much of the advice was directed at families or single people, and the book was also rather American. For example, there were chapters on baseball and lemonade stands

Some of the suggestions were quite old-fashioned, such as having a rocking chair. I certainly agreed with this one, because I regret not keeping my grandmother's rocking chair! Sitting in a rocking chair is soothing and relaxing, and not just for the elderly!

There were several chapters on making good decisions about what to keep and what to buy and even how to live as a Christian. I didn't agree with all of them. For example, one chapter suggested buying an alarm clock and doing early morning devotions.  This is probably good - if you are an early morning person! I found the writing a bit dogmatic, unfortunately, and, although I am religious, I don't like books with too many Biblical quotations.

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


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller can't get over watching her mother save a pack of terrified dogs from a large cobra with her walking stick. Her father used to say that reptiles kept everyone on their toes! This kind of courage is probably what you need to successfully run a farm in Zimbabwe, and Alexandra's formidable parents had been through even worse times. There are many anecdotes like this in this enjoyable book.

It is both a love-letter to her larger-than-life parents and a love-letter to Zimbabwe, and not the vanished colonial world but modern Zimbabwe as well. It sounds like an idyllic life with wild birds and frogs, and beautiful countryside, but, of course, it's extremely dangerous now. But when Alexandra's father suddenly dies in Budapest, she realises even more deeply what her parents and her homeland mean to her.

I found that this book moved fast, like its title, and tended to flit between tragedy and comedy. However, life can be like that, and, perhaps, it increased the poignancy of the situation. I'd love to read more of Alexandra Fuller's books.

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

This YA novel is an optimistic, but moving and well-written story which doesn't shy away from serious issues, such as divorce and Alzheimer's disease. I was a bit surprised that I enjoyed every minute of it and didn't want to finish it, even though I am much older than Paige, the heroine, and she was much more mature and also cleverer than I was at her age. She is so likable, that I doubt that any reader could dislike her!

At the beginning of the book, Paige, a young high-school student, is known as the Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned, and she feels that everyone pities her. She suffers from bad dreams, but she also thinks that she is ready to date again, so she makes a plan. This plan, of course, includes Ryan Chase, the boy she has had a crush on for a long time, but what are her feelings about his cousin Max, who actually reads Jane Austen?.Paige has great friends, but she has to cope with seeing her beloved grandmother declining, applying to college, and the puzzling sight of her divorced parents dating...each other.

I think that most 15 year-olds would find it easy to identify with Paige's problems, and her positive and resilient attitude toward life. Most of the characters are easy to like, and I enjoyed reading how Paige gains sinner strength in the novel. Emery Lord writes about Paige's grandmother's disease especially well.

It's a minor point, but I was delighted to find a main character who actually dislikes The Rocky Horror Show! I hate what I've seen of it, and I have never watched the movie - I won't watch it any time soon.

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay Thomas Nelson--FICTION

Katherine Reay always writes insightful and interesting books, and this one is no exception. This is a beautiful and moving story about three women who find friendship, community and meaning through their involvement in a bookshop. But a huge crisis tests their friendship, and their capacity to forgive...

When Madeline inherits her aunt Maddie's bookstore The Printed Letter Bookshop, she regards it as a temporary affair. Disappointed that she failed to make partner at her prestigious law firm in Chicago, and troubled by the break-up with her workaholic boyfriend, she is also heavily in debt because of the bookshop. It doesn't help that Claire and Janet, the employees, regard her as an outsider, and that Janet and her young male friend Chris think that she treated her aunt badly.

Claire and Janet also have their problems. Claire feels that she is losing touch with her family, especially her difficult teenage daughter Brittany. Janet feels bitter about her divorce from Seth and doesn't want to face life alone. Maddie tried to help them all before she died by sending them each a personal letter and a list of books to read. In the end, though, they need the kind of strength which only comes through prayer.

 I didn't want to finish this. I especially liked Madeline and reading about her relationship with Chris. How would this play out?

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


ISBN              9780785222002
PRICE            $16.99 (USD)

Monday, August 05, 2019

Murder in the Mill-Race by E.C.R. Lorac

This is a well-crafted mystery with a likeable Scottish Chief Inspector. I especially enjoyed the luminous descriptions of the beautiful Devon countryside and Lorac's ability to sum characters up in a few words. I will be reading more books by Lorac.

Anne and Dr Raymond Ferens want to escape the city and decide to live in a remote hillside village in Devon. The village overlooking Exmoor is very pretty but the villagers keep to themselves. The Ferens find Sister Monica especially odd. A pseudo-nun, she is a malicious gossip and a domineering woman left in charge of the orphanage. Everyone is suspicious about an employee of this woman who was either murdered or killed herself.

When Sister Monica also dies in strange circumstances, the local police  can't get anywhere with the villagers. Scotland Yard has to be called in. Macdonald, helped by Reeves, soon finds out the truth with his quiet but astute interviewing skills and his knowledge of character.

This was a bit dry at times, although creepy, but I enjoyed it.

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Neither Bomb Nor Bullet Benjamin Kwashi: Archbishop on the front line by Andrew Boyd

This is a wonderful book about an incredibly brave Anglican Archbishop who has to face the terrors of radical Islam in Nigeria but remains steadfast in his faith.

I enjoyed the beginning about his naughty antics as a young boy, his early days as a soldier and his stories about the culture of his country.Although his mother was semi-literate, his father was an educated civil  servant and his grandmother was deeply religious, young Ben fell into bad ways. He drank too much and failed his military exams although his superiors still wanted him to become an officer. Luckily, a street pastor converted him and he found his true calling.

His early romances and his strange love affair with the shy, but hot-tempered country-girl Gloria was also fun to read.  She sounds incredibly formidable but extremely wise!

After that the book becomes somewhat harrowing because of the military dictatorship and the rise of militant Islam. In 1987 a minor skirmish between a Muslim and a Christian led to riots and killings - the young minister's house and church were burned down. He had to give a speech in the midst of the upheaval and tell his flock what to do - he gave wise advice.  It's still a joy to read because of his happy and wise personality and Gloria is interesting, but it also brings home to the reader the rise of radical Islam.

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


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Unmarriageable Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan by Soniah Kamal

This clever and witty Pakistani version of Pride and Prejudice by Soniah Kamal is great fun.

Like Pride and Prejudice, the story involves five sisters in a family down on its luck, but it concentrates on the two oldest sisters, Alys and Jenna. They are modern girls (although Alys is perhaps more modern) stuck in an old-fashioned world in which women are regarded as spinsters if they are single at 30.  They both teach at the BDS, a private school for girls, where Alys tries to convince the girls tthat there is more to life than marriage and children.

Mrs Binat, their mother, is determined to get the girls married, but she won't accept Abroads because their wives are unpaid servants or Absurdities, men from humble backgrounds. When the girls meet Mr Bumgles and his arrogant friend Valentine Darsee, Mrs Binat is overjoyed and thinks that there is a proposal in the offing. The girls have more twists and turns to face before they find true happiness, however. For example, Alys must fight off the attentions of the smarmy Kaleen, and choose between Wickhaam and Darsee.

Pride and Prejudice transfers very well to this exotic setting where good Muslim women are supposed to be virgins until they are married; there are huge wedding feasts; and class distinction and gossip are all-pervasive.  The main characters are very likeable, although some people might not approve of Alys smoking.

I was a bit puzzled when Mrs Binat prayed the rosary, but Muslims have a rosary as well as Catholics.

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


Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Art of Love The Romantic and Explosive Stories Behind Art's Greatest Couples by Kate Bryan

This was an interesting and enjoyable book about the often tumultuous romances of art's greatest couples. As Bryan writes, romances between artists raise lots of issues, such as how does the relationship affect the work, where do they work and the prospect of competition between them. Many of the women artists in the book suffered from 'little woman syndrome,' such as Sonia Delaunay, so it is good to see that she gives them their due.  Others had to be very strong and independent to get ahead, and to not let their relationships destroy them or destroy their art. Georgia O'Keefe, for example, would not put her art into all-women exhibitions.

My favourite couple were the Delaunays who were so in sync that they described their art as 'simultaneity'! I like the bright colours and modernist designs of Sonia Delaunay and I was pleased that she regarded her decorative work as equal to her paintings.

This is well-worth reading for anyone who likes art, and is interested in the love affairs of great artists.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Her Own Rules by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Klaus with K, edit by Thegreenj [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

I usually find Barbara Taylor Bradford's books soothing, in spite of her heroines having lots of troubles. However, this one was quite harrowing, partly because of the connection with Australia. Bradford's characters were likeable and sympathetic, however, and the descriptions of Yorkshire and Connecticut were evocative and atmospheric.

Meredith is a successful hotel owner with two lovely adult children, but her childhood and her divorce upset her.  She had a difficult childhood in Australia, and decided to live in Connecticut when she was very young. When she travels to one of her hotels in Yorkshire, she feels the urge to visit Fountains Abbey nearby, and she feels that something tragic happened to her there. Haunted by strange dreams and a strange illness, she decides to resolve the dark secrets of her past before they start to destroy her health. She is lucky enough to have the support of her new French boyfriend Luc and her friends and children.

I found this psychological story quite hard to put down, and I enjoyed the settings and reading about Meredith's business dealings which were very detailed. I am not sure if I would call it holiday reading, however.

The Art of Mindful Reading Embracing the Wisdom of Words by Ella Berthoud

Did you love reading when you were a child or a teenager? Do you find it hard to make the time to read now? This wonderful little book will help you to regain that love, and deepen your experience of reading. Ella Berthoud discusses how to discover what kind of reader you are, and provides several reading exercises to choose from.

Research has shown that reading fiction is similar to meditation, so it is actually good for you! Ella Berthoud shows readers how to make it even more 'mindful'. First, she suggests that you decide what kind of reader you are - visual, aural or kinaesthetic, so that you can use your imagination to better effect. For example, I think that I am mostly a visual reader, so I like to imagine the details of scenes in my head, rather than actually acting it out.

The exercises which Berthoud suggests include having a reading nook, so that you can settle down with a good book in your private place, learning poems off by heart, and re-reading beloved children's books. I also like her ideas about writing about a book in six words and keeping a book journal. A book treasury for favourite quotations, scenes and poems is another idea. Some of these exercises do seem like a lot of work, unfortunately, but they are worth it - I used to keep a Commonplace Book, another name for a book treasury and I remember loving it. If only I had kept it!Many famous people, including Vivien Leigh and Alec Guiness, have kept Commonplace Books.

This lovely book is well-worth buying if you want to make your reading more mindful and enjoyable.

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

EDITION  Other Format

ISBN          9781782407683

PRICE       $14.99 (USD)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Making Space, Clutter Free The Last Book on Decluttering You'll Ever Need by Tracy McCubbin

Christopher had a huge amount of correspondence from the IRS, which he was scared to open because he knew that he owed them a lot of money. He had stacks of papers in his house. He wanted to propose to the love of his life, but he had this big secret. After   helped him to organise his paperwork and advised him to see a lawyer and accountant, he found out that he didn’t owe as much as he thought. Now he is happily married!

Christopher was suffering from one of the seven emotional blocks which prevent people dealing with clutter – avoiding stuff. If he hadn’t faced it, he would probably be extremely unhappy and alone. Maybe, he would owe even more money!

This useful book will help you deal with the blocks preventing you cleaning up clutter. Tracy McCubbin also has practical advice for dealing with each room.  Unfortunately, my problem is mainly books and magazines, and she doesn’t write much about them!  I found The Toothbrush Principle better, but this is an excellent book if you need to declutter, but it really should be studied in depth to see where the dilemma lies, and what you should do.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Austentatious The Evolving World of Jane Austen Fans by Holly Luetkenhaus; Zoe Weinstein University of Iowa Press

I only read a little bit of this. It was too 'modern' for me - I really prefer more traditional studies of Jane Austen.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley

Embers of Childhood by Flora Millers Biddle

This is a haunting book about a childhood of great privilege and luxury. Flora, the granddaughter of Gertrude Whitney lived a Downton-Abbey style life surrounded by servants, partly in the Deep South and partly in the Arondiracks.  It wasn't really idyllic, however, because her parents were busy with their own artistic and somewhat Bohemian lives and left her to her own devices. She really led a rather lonely childhood, although she enjoyed hunting and fishing with her parents. She only learnt to become more assertive much later in life - bullying and loneliness left her with some scars.

Nevertheless, Flora describes her childhood and teenage years lyrically and with much affection. I was mostly interested in the Vanderbilts, I must admit, but Flora was very likeable and it is an enjoyable autobiography.

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

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

This is an unforgettable  book about love, romance, heartbreak and friendship. Most of all, it is about resilience. Although it is extremely miserable at times, the luminous writing and carefully constructed story will keep you reading from the dramatic start to the end. The settings are also beautifully described - I am sure that Cremona can look forward to more visitors!

The leading character Grace has a successful life as a 'cello and violin maker with her own shop and she also enjoys her romance with the seemingly wonderful David but the problem is that David is married with children and waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Grace doesn't feel very guilty - David's wife knows that he has a girlfriend - but she is growing tired of waiting and travelling between England and France is also a strain at times. Although lonely, Grace is friendly with a troubled teenager who works for her and a dapper, elderly customer.

Haunted by the death of her parents and having to forsake her musical career, when Grace faces a crisis, she can't deal with it...

I loved this almost perfect book and I am looking forward to more books by Anstey Harris. Her website is also great, and provides a list of music that is important to the story.

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


Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

This enchanting story involves three women, all trying to begin new and meaningful lives. Sophia is a therapist, but when her abusive fiancee dies, she struggles with her conflicting feelings, and seeks answers in a new life in Cornwall, a world away from her practice in America.  Ginny, her new boss, also has to deal with a broken heart, wondering why her husband left her. Emily lived in the nineteenth century, but when Sophia finds her journal,she wonders if there is a message there for her.

This is a beautifully written and captivating novel with engaging characters, lovely heroes, wonderful descriptions of Cornwall and excellent Christian values. You can almost smell the salt from the sea and taste the Cornish food! Reading it would make anyone want to escape to Cornwall, like Sophia. It's a good place in which to rediscover hope and faith.

However, I found the modern stories better-written than Emily's tale. I also found that there were a lot of characters when I first started reading this book, and this was a bit confusing until I got used to it. I highly recommend it, and I will start looking for Lindsay Harrel's other novels.

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

All For Her The Autobiography of Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. by Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. Ave Maria Press

Father Peyton, came from a harsh background of almost unremitting poverty in Ireland, to found the famous Family Rosary and Family Theater Productions, and mix with movie stars, such as Loretta Young and Bing Crosby.  A clever boy, he despaired about his future in Ireland, because his father died young and his mother found running the farm together with a large family impossibly difficult.  He was lucky enough to have his talents spotted, and travel to the US with his brother. There, he received a good education and decided to become a priest, but his troubles were not over. He had a terrible time with TB and it was a miracle that he recovered.

This first half of the book was interesting, although harrowing, and a bit like a rags-to-riches story. The second part about his campaigns and TV shows got rather technical, even though he met movie stars. This was disappointing. I have to admit to thinking that it would be the other way around! However, he was a very wise man, who overcame great difficulties due to his devotion to the Virgin Mary, and started a crusade to bring prayers and the Rosary back to families.

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


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Prince Albert. The Man Who Saved The Monarchy by A.N. Wilson

A.N. Wilson does the extremely talented and multi-faceted Prince Albert justice in this long biography.  Prince Albert was a surprisingly progressive prince with liberal ideas and attitudes, who liked to be involved with politics, technology, the arts, and even helping the working classes. He was the President of The Anti-Slavery Society, and interested in getting rid of the oppressive Corn Laws. His supreme achievement, however, were the wonderful museums in Kensington and the Crystal Palace Exhibition.

When Queen Victoria came to power, the monarchy had a bad reputation due to the dissolute George IV and the Dukes and their mistresses.  Prince Albert and Queen Victoria with their stable family life and large number of children restored the reputation, and Prince Albert, once regarded as a German interloper, came to be admired and respected.

This book is an excellent study of his private and public life - it goes into the storminess of the marriage, for example. However, I found it a bit heavy-going. Also, Wilson writes that there hasn't been an extensive biography for a long time but I have another one from the 1980s.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dutch Girl Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen

I am pleased to be joining the Blog Tour for Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen. I hope that you like my review.

Audrey Hepburn was terrified. The teenage girl was returning from delivering a message to an Allied airman when she saw German soldiers coming towards her. She knew that she would not only be asked for her identity, but also what she was doing. This required fast thinking. Audrey started picking wildflowers, smiled sweetly at the soldiers, and told them that she was taking the flowers home.

This is just one of the many tales Robert Matzen  tells in this exciting, but extremely harrowing book about Audrey Hepburn’s time in the war. Although the star was quite a heroine, the war affected her so badly that she didn’t want to talk about it so she kept it mostly secret except from her sons. Also, her aristocratic mother was once a fan of Fascism and even met Hitler, misguided by her Irish husband, Audrey’s dissolute father. Her mother saw the light quite quickly, however, once the Nazis invaded Holland.

Although Audrey did manage to establish a fledgling ballet career during the war, she had a terrible time. Her beloved uncle was taken hostage and shot. She saw her older brother dragged to a Nazi camp and Jews taken away on the cattle trains. She lived in Velp near Arnhem and towards the end of the war, people were suffering from malnutrition, including Audrey herself. The war raged around them and they turned to despair when the Battle of Arnhem was lost. Audrey once said: ‘Don’t discount anything you see or hear about the Nazis’. She said that: ‘It was worse than you could ever imagine. She was once helped by UNICEF and never forgot it – this led to her becoming an ambassador for the organisation.

During this dreadful time, Audrey and her mother helped a doctor who worked for the Resistance, Audrey delivered a Resistance newspaper, and her family even hid an Allied airman! She also helped to raise funds for the Resistance.

This is a well-researched story which reads like a novel and might make people see the wonderful star in a different light. The only point that I would quibble at is that Matzen  seems to give the impression that all of the Mitford sisters were pro-Nazi. Nancy was very much for the Allied cause and Jessica became a Communist and ran away to America. 

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

Blog Tour for The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen on May 14

I am delighted to be joining the Blog Tour for The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen on May 14. Audrey Hepburn was only a great actress. She was also a heroine of the Dutch Resistance!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I Mary, Elizabeth & Henrietta Anne by Sarah-Beth Watkins John Hunt Publishing Ltd Chronos Books

If the daughters of Charles 1 lived now. they could have happy marriages and successful careers because they were remarkably clever. Unfortunately, the poor girls had to endure the regicide of their father, exile from home, and unhappy lives.  Mary's marriage was relatively happy, but she was homesick for England, and Henrietta had an extremely tough time in France.

I enjoyed reading about these sisters. Sarah Beth-Watkins has written a detailed, well-research account and the letters help to bring them alive.  The relationship between Charles II and Henrietta is especially poignant.  The only problem that I have is that Charles 1 is regarded as a saint in the Anglican church because he would not agree to make England Presbyterian, and I didn't feel that she really gave the controversy about his relationship with the Covenanters of Scotland a fair hearing.

However, this book certainly made me want to read more about the period.

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

Friday, April 05, 2019

Quaker Quicks. What Do Quakers Believe? By Geoffrey Durham

Geoffrey Durham paints a vague, but appealing picture of the Quaker religion. I did wonder whether he is describing an extremely modern form of Quakerism, however, because I thought that Quakers were Christian and Protestant. According to Durham, you don't have to be a Christian to be a Quaker, although the Bible is very important to Quakers. It is possible to be a Hindu or Buddhist Quaker, apparently.

Durham gets rid of the misconceptions concerning Quakers, for example, that they are exclusive or that they dress in black and don't have any fun. He writes eloquently about Quaker philosophy, their belief in an Inner Light and their approach to life, the importance of meetings and their work for charity and society. Many people will have heard that Quakers are pacifists. Durham explains this.  He has Quakers from several different backgrounds describe their experiences at the end of the book.

This is an excellent introduction to Quakerism and I enjoyed reading it.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Mistress of Novels about Broken Relationships. The Best of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope proves that she is the mistress of novels about broken relationships in this moving account of how the selfishness of adults affects their teenage children. She has sympathy for all of her characters, but her true heroes are the teenagers who are forced to reinvent their lives when one breakup causes chaos. Sophie is especially realistic and memorable.

A quiet, lonely girl, Sophie, an only child, seeks refuge with her friend Gus and his two brothers and happily married parents at their hotel, The Bee Hive. Her mother and Gus's father, Laurence have been best friends for years and have a strange relationship, although Hilary is also friendly with Gina. When Sophie's father Fergus leaves, he starts a trail of misery which Sophie finds difficult to cope with as she gradually finds that she can hardly depend on anyone and her illusions are being shattered, one by one.

I have read most of Joanna Trollope's novels, and this is the best one I have read. I found it difficult to put down. Although it was a quiet domestic story, it was extremely dramatic, and certainly kept me wondering what would happen next!

This is highly recommended.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde

This fairy-tale like romance by Katie Ffordewas great holiday reading, although it was wordier than most of her novels. The likeable hero and heroine, attractive settings and involved story made it enjoyable reading. It was a bit silly, but I was sorry to finish it.

Polly, the heroine, is a thirty-five year old struggling potter who works as a waitress in her Cotswold village to support her tiny business. She has had trouble with boyfriends and is much more passionate about trying to save some historic shops from demolition. However, she decides that she is in a rut after a lecture by her colleagues and wants to 'live dangerously'. An affair with a toy boy might be the answer, but is smooth-talking journalist Tristan what she needs? Why does she feel attracted by the stiff-upper-lipped and older David Locking-Hill?


 When Polly gets the morning-after pill from the doctor, I was a bit upset, so I was extremely pleased when she threw it down the toilet!

Katie Fforde's novels are mostly fairly light and frothy, but well-written. I have almost read them all, and they are definitely my preferred reading.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Becoming Mrs. Lewis The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis By Patti Callahan

One reviewer called this novel the 'book that Patti Callahan was born to write'. Indeed, it is. She makes the moving love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis come alive in this luminously written book with its evocative descriptions of New York and England and excellent characterization. The great couple almost leap from the page!

This is mainly Joy's story, though. Joy had a tough time - she felt rejected by her parents and ultimately by her husband because she could never be the perfect daughter or the perfect wife. She was searching for most of her life, experiencing 'sexual exploration and teenage narcissism' in her youth and attempting to find happiness with her husband and sons. But destiny had other plans for Joy. When she read an article by C.S. Lewis, she became fascinated with his story and soon she read everything that he had written. She started to turn toward Christianity and began writing to C.S. Lewis. Soon, the letters were flying back and forth, and Joy's life began to change irrevocably. As C.S. Lewis told her in the novel:  'God is the Storyteller and Providence is his own storyline'.

When she visits C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, she begins to fall in love with C.S. without realising it.  She also falls in love with London and England and the quiet peaceful life in the brother's sprawling house near Oxford, but she is unsure what the much older Lewis's feelings are. Will she have the courage to leave a disastrous marriage and take her sons with her to England, taking a chance on a bright future with the man she loves?

This is a wonderful tribute to this brilliant couple.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers Booklook Bloggers' Review Program . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The 21 A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs by Martin Mosebach

Although this was a well-written analysis of the tragic story of the Coptic martyrs, I didn't finish it. I greatly admire them and I think that the Coptic church is right to regard them as saints, but I don't think that I was interested enough in the subject to go on with the book, unfortunately.

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

Great British Family Names and Their History What's in a Name? by John Moss

This was a well-researched snapshot of the history of great British family names written in a factual way. It is especially interesting to historians and genealogists.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Trafalgar The Untold Story of the Greatest Sea Battle in History by Nicholas Best

This is an interesting book with vivid descriptions of the actual battle with accounts from those involved.  It is well-worth reading for anyone who wants to learn more about Nelson and the battle. I especially liked the depiction of Lord Nelson. This was a moving and well-researched history.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Life Cycles-Relationships Discover Confluence. Is Your Relationship Fated? by Neil Killion

In this interesting book, Neil Killion applies his Life Cycles Theory to famous relationships, including friendships, and to careers. He also develops the concept of 'Confluence,' i.e. when couples share 'Significant Years' in common, and applies this to many relationships, such as Prince William and his beautiful wife, Catherine and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and business relationships, such as Charles and Louis Tiffany. The study of this theory can help you in your life and relationships.

The  Life Cycles Theory is a twelve-year cycle, with each twelfth year being 'A Year of Revolution,' markedd by new beginnings and achievements, through sudden upheavals. The seventh year after each Year of Revolution is also important, bringing with it a 'direction change and uphill challenge'.
On this basis, a Life Chart can be developed showing the 'Years of Revolution'and the 'Years of Broken Pathways' with their underlying themes.

This can not only be done for individuals; it also applies to relationships using their confluent years.
This is the time that they have in common during their significant years. For example, William and Kate have almost seven months of 'Confluence' for every significant year of their relationship. Killion explains how their significant years have had a huge effect on their love affair, for example, they met when they were 19, both in their 'Year of Broken Pathways'.  Their 'Confluence' has helped them develop a strong marriage, likely to last.

Studying this theory and applying it to your own life and relationships will definitely help you see how your life is developing.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Girl, Arise! A Catholic Feminist's Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World by Claire Swinarski

Is being a Catholic feminist an oxymoron? Many people think that it is, mainly because practising Catholic women usually don't believe in abortion. This is surprising because many early feminists were actually very anti-abortion.  Claire Swinarski discusses this, and other controversial questions in her book.  However, this is not just about divisive issues; it is an inspiring look at what it means to be a Catholic feminist in today's world.

Claire Swinarski didn't come from an especially religious home, and she was somewhat lapsed when she found herself at a low ebb and found herself in a welcoming Catholic group of women. This helped her see how women can assist each other and work together. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, and eventually decided to create a Catholic feminist podcast which led to this book.

Another reason why people don't think that the words 'Catholic' and 'feminist' go together is because of the image of the good, quiet, submissive Catholic woman, and Saint Paul's words about women. But Claire explains why his words have been misinterpreted, and she also gives examples of powerful Biblical women and women saints, such as the fierce Joan of Arc and the sweet Saint Therese, her opposite. She shows how to be a Catholic woman with 'moxie' - courage and determination. Her chapters on loving your neighbour and loving yourself are especially good.

This is well-worth reading for aspiring Catholic feminists, especially young ones.

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

The Grace of Enough Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart

When Haley Stewart and her husband and children moved to a 650-square-foot apartment on a working farm with no flushing toilets in central Texas, many friends thought that they were mad. They were going a long way from friends and family, and they were leaving a house for a small apartment. Daniel was going to receive much lower pay. How would they cope?

However, life in the city was a struggle. Daniel was working long hours at a job he didn't like and didn't believe in, and Haley was working part-time while homeschooling. Daniel missed out on the children's bedtime, and Haley was considering increasing her working hours. In the end, they worked out that it was an expensive way to live, because they were eating out or getting fast food more often. Family time was declining.

Moving to the farm was the best thing they ever did.  Haley combines the story of their move and how they regained what was essential in life with suggestions for readers in an interesting way. She has many lessons to share about the importance of simple things, such as eating with the family, involvement with the community, and sharing with others. This is about how to avoid the throwaway culture no matter where you live.

It is not just a decluttering book, and I must admit to being pleased that Haley and Daniel don't like the idea of parting with books!

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

Mother Country A Novel by Irina Reyn St. Martin's Press

This is a beautifully written and insightful glimpse into the life of an Eastern European migrant in America and class distinction in New York.  Deeply-layered, it compares many different stratas of society, including the Ukrainians and Russians in America and it also compares life in Ukraine with modern life in the USA. Irina Reyn captures all this through her heroine Nadia's eyes, showing us a different world.

Nadia has a hard life in a seedy part of Brooklyn, struggling with two jobs. She works as a nanny for ambitious Regina and cares for an annoying old man at night, so that she can eventually bring her diabetic daughter to America from war-torn Ukraine.  She doesn't have many friends, isn't happy with her life, and she has a fraught relationship with her daughter Larisska, because she left her in war-torn Ukraine. The horrors of the war came suddenly, and the emptiness and snobbishness of life in New York doesn't compare favourably with the community spirit and the old beauty of Rubizhne. But Nadia has a steel will and a strong spirit. Will these be enough to help her cope with her new life?

This is a haunting story, well-worth reading. I highly recommend it.

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

I find Joshua Becker's decluttering books helpful, but not as good as the 'toothbrush' system.  However, he looks at decluttering from Christian point of view, which is a little unusual and more philosophical than most of these books.  He shows how minimalising helped him change his life and even move to a smaller house.

Becker provides tips for tidying each room, emphasizing the kitchen and dining room, the heart of the home. He also has a guide for each day, and how to continue living in a minimalist way.  His checklists at the end of the chapter are especially helpful.

The trouble with these books is that tidying up the clutter is easy to read about. It is much harder to do. This is an excellent guide, however.

I received this free ebook from Eidelweiss.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Well-Behaved Woman A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler

Photographed by Jose Maria Mora -, Public Domain, Alva photographed in costume for her 1883 ball

As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it again! I love reading about the Gilded Age and Alva Vanderbilt was one of its main characters. This beautifully-written novel certainly does her justice.

The novel starts when Alva, one of several sisters, is struggling to cope with financial and social problems, and faced with an uncertain future when her beloved father dies. Her good friend, Consuelo Yznaga, introduces her to William Vanderbilt, who is seemingly the answer, although not that wealthy and not in the higher echelons of New York society. Alva impressed young William with her wit and charm, and her 'hustling' soon make her family leading lights in New York. However, this practically arranged marriage doesn't bring Alva happiness and she has to cope with many difficulties in an old-fashioned patriarchal society. Soon her daughter, the beautiful Consuelo, will have her own mighty struggles...

This captures the atmosphere of the Gilded Age, and Alva is an engaging and sympathetic character.  The novel also shows Alva and Consuelo's relationship in a very different light than usual, and this is explained at the end, and probably largely correct. However, I am not sure whether a major part of the story is true - I can't find any evidence for it, and it may have been added for dramatic effect.  It  is not beyond the realms of possibility. Also, I am not sure about the characterisation of Winthrop Rutherfurd.

This is a must-read for fans of historical novels, especially those who love the Gilded Age.

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