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Friday, July 10, 2020

The Guide To Minimalism Lifestyle Secrets to Living stress-free life by Alex Frost

Alex Frost provides a good summary of advantages of minimalism and why it is good for you. He also goes into the myths about minimalism in depth. However, there wasn't much about actual decluttering here, I thought.

It's a good book to read if you are interested in the subject. However, if you have a lot of 'stuff', such as books and magazines, and you find it difficult to declutter, turning into a minimalist is going to be an awful lot of hard work. And I genuinely mean 'awful'!

I received this free ebook from NetGalley

Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay Thomas Nelson--FICTION

Alyssa has lost everything - her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and her home there. She may even be implicated in a scandal even though she is completely innocent. As she is broke, she has no choice but to go home to Winsome, a small town which she was anxious to leave.  After reading that in order to go forward you have to go back, she feels a bit better about it. After all, her best friend is there, but Alyssa still has a conflicted relationship with her mother and a wounded soul.

Most of the people in this book also have problems. Jeremy has bought the local coffee shop, considered a 'home away from home' by the locals but they are upset with his changes, and he can't get ahead. He asks for Alyssa's help.

This book also features characters from The Printed-Letter Bookshop, including Janet, Alyssa's mother and Chris and Maddie.  Most of them are hurt and struggling, but Winsome, a warm, friendly town and community helps to heal them, along with faith, which plays an important role in this Christian novel.

I love Katherine Reay's writing and the , but calling the town Winsome is taking it a little far, I think. It seems a bit too cliched!

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

Monday, July 06, 2020

Sisters in Life and in Death. Review of Women of the OSS. Sisterhood of Spies by Elizabeth P. McIntosh

Young and brave, the women of the OSS organised resistance groups, committed sabotage, forged documents and encoded and decoded messages, as well as being involved in many other espionage activities. This book is based on over 100 interviews with men and women who served in the OSS and the CIA and with writers, scholars and historians.  Elizabeth P. McIntosh does justice to the women who fought for freedom in this fascinating book.

She tells exciting tales about these 'sisters', including the stories of Maria Gulovich, who led soldiers to freedom across mountainous terrain through snow and bitter weather, Countess Ramanones who reported on the gossip of the Spanish aristocracy, Cornelia Dodson, who met the future fashion designer Emilio Pucci to ask him to search for Mussolini's missing diaries, and Virginia Hall, who only had on leg but didn't that affect her clandestine activities. McIntosh also writes about exciting operations, such as Operation Sunrise which led to the unconditional surrender of German troops in Italy. There are many famous people mentioned in the book as well, including Clark Gable and Marlene Dietrich. She also adds her own story as a young woman working in China and India in the very heart of the dangerous Pacific war. I also liked reading about the leader of the OSS Maj. General William J. Donovan with his twinkling Irish blue eyes.and his theory about the Temple of Apollo in Delphi in Greece.

I greatly enjoyed this book and it made me interested in reading more about the women in the OSS.

I received this free book from the Naval Institute Press in return for an honest review.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Strange Hotel A Novel by Eimear McBride

I am not a big fan of stream-of-consciousness writing so I didn't finish this.

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

The Real Coco Chanel by Rose Sgueglia Pen & Sword

This is a comprehensive book about the amazing Coco Chanel which covers not only her fashion career, but her affairs, her friends, her actions during the war and her legacy. It also contains interviews with curators of museums and people who knew Chanel herself. The writing was a delight to read, although a bit wordy at times, but I thought that Rose Sgueglia was a bit too sympathetic about Chanel's affair with a Nazi and her suspected treachery.

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

The Engineer's Wife A Novel by Tracey Enerson Wood

Carolus-Duran Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum,

A long time ago I walked across the amazing Brooklyn Bridge and I watched a documentary about the making of it, so this book immediately caught my eye. I remember thinking what an inspiring story Emily Warren Roebling's tale was, and this novel certainly does her justice.

Young, ambitious and energetic, Emily Warren doesn't want to be a domesticated wife and do embroidery. When she meets handsome engineer Wash Roebling, she is impressed with his dreams, but she has no idea what life will throw at her. As Wash is afflicted with caisson disease, she has to take over much of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, an almost impossible feat. All this, while she struggles with her feelings for P.T. Barnum, shady characters who want to bring her down, and conflict in her marriage.

I found much of the book harrowing, because of the effect on the workers of the caisson, and the terrible accidents during the building of the bridge. However, it is certainly an inspiring story.

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

Yes to Life : In Spite of Everything Viktor E. Frankl, Daniel Goleman (Introduction by)

This should be required reading during the pandemic! It is a wonderful affirmation of life and the meaning of life, although not religious. When Victor Frankl endured the torture and oppression of a concentration camp, he realised that he was still free in his own mind, and he dreamed about his future career. He argues that even in the worst of circumstances life still has meaning (and makes a strong argument against euthanasia).

According to Frankl, our lives take on meaning through our actions, through loving and through suffering. Each of us has a unique life purpose, but we should ask what life asks of us instead of asking what life can do for us.  We can't usually do anything about fate, but we can control how we react to it, and develop resilience in the tough times. Life can even become more meaningful when it is difficult. He also writes about the importance of compassion and empathy.

The only problem is that I found it all rather vague. Frankl doesn't really explain how to carry out his prescriptions, so I am going to read more about logotherapy, the therapy he developed.

I found some of the descriptions of the concentration camp too harrowing to read. Otherwise, I highly recommend this book.

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Science of Time Travel : The Secrets Behind Time Machines, Time Loops, Alternate Realities, and More! Elizabeth Howell

Some of the information about the science and legacy of some of the famous science fiction time travel stories was interesting, but I found this book too politically correct, moralistic and condescending. It is written for teenagers, so I am not sure what I would think if I were a teenager, but I have a feeling that it would still annoy me.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Louisa May Alcott Challenge

I am a bit late joining this, but I hope to finish it this time. I am hoping to read An Old-Fashioned Girl

Louisa May Alcott Challenge

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Scent Keeper A Novel by Erica Bauermeister

This is a beautifully written novel but I found it almost unremittingly miserable. However, the riveting story, sympathetic characters and luminous descriptions made up for that! I am not sure if I would read it again, though, but I will read some of Erica Bauermeister"s other books.

The story concerns Emmeline who lives an idyllic life with her father on a deserted Canadian island, fascinated by his scent machine and his magical bottles of scents. Her life is full of secrets, however. After a huge tragedy strikes, Emmeline is taken in by a lovely couple, but she is bullied at school. She meets Fisher there, a kindly boy and neighbour who helps her. In this coming-of-age story, Emmeline's urge to discover her secrets grows stronger, but will she lose herself along the way?

It's certainly a great first novel, and the characters are so real, I really wanted to see what happened! I recommend it for anyone who likes atmospheric and insightful romantic stories. I would love to see a movie of it.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Natasha Gregson WagnerMore Than Love : An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood

This is a lovely memoir of growing up as the daughter of  the beautiful and vivacious Natalie Wood. Natasha Gregson Wagner gives us an inside look into Hollywood life, its glamour and its dark side, She also dispels myths about Natalie, such as that her mother was a tyrant who made her act, and about Robert Wagner.

This is a story worth telling and a must-read for anyone who remembers Natalie Wood's movies.

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

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

What to Say and How to Say It Discuss Your Catholic Faith with Clarity and Confidence by Brandon Vogt

Many Catholics and, indeed, Christians avoid discussing religion like the plague. Controversial subjects, such as abortion and why there is suffering
can be especially difficult, but it is certainly better to feel confident about talking about these topics with people who disagree than avoiding them. Brandon Vogt shows Catholics how to defend their beliefs comprehensively and with excellent arguments.

I like his books, and I will read more of them.

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

Living in Medieval England The Turbulent Year of 1326 by Kathryn Warner

Although the account of ordinary people during this period provides a vivid and very detailed look at medieval life during this year, Kathryn Warner is at her best when she writes about King Edward II. I found the parts about him the most interesting sections of the book.  I would love to know more about women running businesses during this period - there are glimpses of this here.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

OSS Operation Black Mail One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd Naval Institute Press

Elizabeth P. McIntosh was a leading figure in the realm of black propaganda, using various forms of media to destroy the enemy's morale and persuade him to surrender. This included compiling false newspapers, radio programmes,and changing letters and postcards. One of 'Donovan's Dreamers' of creatives and propagandists, she was the acting head of an operational branch in the East. She worked in India, China and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Here Todd not only tells Elizabeth's story, but she informs us about the little-known, but hugely important role of OSS in the East, in a tale full of colourful characters, such as Paul Child (Julia's husband) and Jane Foster, who led a tragic life.  She also fills the book with the vivid atmosphere of the East, and she has a thorough knowledge of the history. I would like to read more books by her.

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


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marie Antoinette's Confidante The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe by Geri Walton Pen & Sword

The Princesse de Lamballe was the most wonderful friend. She stuck with the doomed Queen through thick and thin, even paying the supreme sacrifice. Sweet and angelic with golden hair, the Princess liked a quiet life and didn't want to join in the Queen's love for playing games and her friendships with some frivolous aristocrats. Her main rivalry for the Queen's friendship was with the Princesse de Polignac, but when Marie-Antoinette wanted a more sensible, loyal companion, she turned back to the lovely Lamballe.

This is a very detailed and sympathetic biography of the Princess, but I thought that Geri Walton was a bit hard on the Queen at times. I also found the account of Madame Lamballe's death extremely graphic, but it had to be included.  The bloodthirsty French Revolution is also difficult to read about.

This is a must-read for anyone who likes reading about French royalty.

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

Friday, May 08, 2020

A Schoolmaster's War Harry Ree - A British Agent in the French Resistance by Jonathan Ree Yale University Press, London

Harry Rees takes you right into the thick of the French Resistance with his vivid writings in his diary and his charming tales for young people.  Although he was a pacifist, he reluctantly changed his mind to join the SOE. He is very self-deprecating, arguing that his French wasn't very fluent and that he made a lot of mistakes. However, he certainly had extremely quick wits, because he kept evading the Gestapo even though he was in danger of being betrayed quite often.

Although his job was to commit acts of sabotage, shoot collaborators or train the maquis, he had peaceful interludes in Switzerland occasionally, where he relaxed a bit and he had the time to read. He appears to have been a very wise man, so his thoughts on the war and the books he read are just as interesting as his descriptions of the Resistance.

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

Monday, May 04, 2020

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr Poisoned Pen Press

When the acclaimed detective Bencolin and his young assistant Jeff Marles are invited by financier D'Aunay to investigate the mysterious murder of the malovolent magician Maleger and his beneficiary Allison, they find themselves in a strange and creepy situation, surrounded by odd characters who are all suspects. One of the murders took place in a house above the Rhine called Castle Skull, a huge castle-like place built in the shape of a skull with its own moat and battlements. Bencolin and Marles have to find out whether the magician staged his own death, and who threw the actor Allison off the building.

John Dickson Carr really ramps up the Gothic horrors in this novel with its mysterious events, old legends, gruesome murders and nasty characters. At one stage, Bencolin and Marles travel across the Rhine in a terrific storm to explore the atmospheric house in the middle of the night. Poor Marles has to cope with a lot, and it doesn't help that he is attracted to young 'flapper' type Sally who is engaged, and seemingly telling lies. 

I prefer cosy mysteries and the plot became rather elaborate in the end, although very clever and difficult to guess. John Dickson Carr's writing is probably too creepy and gruesome for me, and I didn't like one of the characters hiding her Australian origins (although I realise that it was often done in those days).

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Drawing and Painting Botanicals for Artists How to Create Beautifully Detailed Plant and Flower Illustrations by Karen Kluglein

This is a beautiful book with lots of exercises and clear instructions which will inspire readers to practise their botanical art. It has sections on drawing and painting and lists all the materials you need for each project. I loved this book and I will definitely be buying it, although I feel that I need to use simpler art books first, unfortunately!

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

Learn to Draw (Almost) Anything in 6 Easy Steps by Rich Davis

This book shows you how to draw almost anything in a popular, cartoon-like style. The drawings are cute, especially the birds, and the instructions seem pretty easy.  Look at Rich Davis's website to get an idea of the drawings, although they are, of course, much more basic in this book. This book is probably more fun for children.

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

The Neglected C.S. Lewis. Mark Neal and Jerry Root

In this beautifully-written but fairly demanding book, the authors argue that readers can't really know C.S. Lewis until they have read his works of literary criticism,  the history of words and the medieval world-view. They include chapters on each of these works. Some sound much more interesting and readable than others, although the authors present an excellent argument about why people should read them. For example, C.S. Lewis's book on his fellow Inkling's rather obscure poem about King Arthur would be worth reading if you really wanted to study Williams's influence on Lewis and his thoughts about King Arthur relate to theology, but I would rather read Lewis's books on chivalry and literary criticism.

The Neglected C.S. Lewis certainly provides an excellent introduction to all of these works, explaining their reasoning and philosophy, and their relationship with his novels.  The way to read this book is to read the chapter about the book and then read the C.S. Lewis work.

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

Life Under Nazi Occupation The Struggle to Survive During World War II by Paul Roland Arcturus Publishing

Churchill condemned the Nazis strongly early in the war:
               'Every week (Hitler's) firing parties are busy in a dozen lands. Mondays he shoots
                Dutcchmen, Tuesdays, Norwegians, Wednesdays, French or Belgians stand against
                the wall. Thursdays it is the Czechs who must suffer and now there are the Serbs
                and the Greeks to fill his repulsive bill of executions. But always, all the days,
                there are the Poles'.

Paul Roland studies the effects of the Nazis on every occupied country in this thoroughly researched book, and what a tale of woe it is. They terrorised every occupied country; they were responsible for the Holocaust, and killed and tortured millions of others, as well as plundering and looting most of these countries.  It's incredibly harrowing reading and written in a fairly dry way, so it is really mostly useful for students and researchers, however, it is certainly worth reading if you are very interested in the subject.

I found the sections on Poland, the Channel Islands and Greece the most interesting, probably because I have read a lot about France during the war.  Roland restores the reputation of the Polish treatment of the Jews to some extent by pointing out that up to 90,000 Poles risked their lives and the lives of their friends and families to give shelter to 28,000 Jews in the months before the Warsaw uprising. The treatment of the Polish by the Nazis was especially horrific because they considered them to be an inferior race, so resistance was incredibly difficult, especially when Poland's leaders, elite, and members of the aristocracy were murdered. The Nazis also made every effort to destroy Polish culture.

If you are interested in The Second World War, this is worth buying.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2020

That Affair Next Door by Anna Katharine Green Poisoned Pen Press

When Miss Amelia Butterworth finds a dead lady next door, she decides to investigate, and finds herself emotionally involved in the affairs of the wealthy and mysterious family next door.  Her investigation leads her into interesting paths, but she finds herself up against the sarcastic and irritating Detective Ebenezer Gryce who seems determined to block her inquiries.

This was an enjoyable detective story, although rather wordy compared with today's mysteries. Amelia is snobbish, proud and rather pleased with herself, but likeable and I certainly wanted her to outwit the annoying Gryce. The mystery is reasonably complicated, but I liked the way that Amelia kept writing her reasoning down and employing logic to solve it. Some readers may be a bit shocked by Amelia's racism, but it wouldn't have been unusual at the time when this early detective story was written.

I will definitely read more books by Anna Katharine Green.

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

Mayhem Unanswered Questions about the Tsarnaev Brothers, the US Government and the Boston Marathon Bombing by Michele R. McPhee

This was an interesting book discussing whether Tamerlan, one of the brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing, was protected by the government because he was an intelligence agent. Unfortunately, I found it complicated and I found it difficult to concentrate on the book, probably because the present crisis is so involving that it is hard to read about another one.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2020

After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill Poisoned Pen Press

This is a very clever and well-written book which explores the relationships between authors and their characters, and it is also an unusual murder mystery. It concerns writers writing about each other, so there is quite a distance between the reader and the characters until later in the story. Sulari Gentill has written an unusual and experimental book which manages to be intriguing as well.

Madeleine, married to a country doctor, struggles to escape from her dull but middle-class life, and write a new novel. Her crime series has become tiring. In the process, however, she starts to see her sometimes unlikeable husband with new eyes, and fall in love with her character Edward, holding converstions with him in her head about the book.  It is easy to see why. Handsome, wealthy and sensitive Edward treats her with much more sympathy and respect, although he is disdainful about crime writers.

Edward, a writer of intellectual novels, also writes about Madeleine, but he finds himself with little time on his hands as he becomes involved in a murder mystery, and he tries to separate his true love Willow from her nasty husband.  He also holds conversations with Madeleine, discussing their writing and their exploration of characters.

My problem with the novel was the ending. Although a big dramatic shock and quite brilliant, I found it disappointing. However, I won't say anymore about that, for fear of giving it away.

I am looking forward to reading more books by Sulari Gentill.

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

Friday, April 03, 2020

The Dharma of Fashion by Otto von Busch

This is a very helpful book concerning desire, addiction and the importance of considering what you buy, but the author does suggest writing a lot of lists.  I will leave it till later because we are having a lockdown at the moment, and there is not much point in dressing up to go to the supermarket.  It's probably an even better time to reconsider what you need to buy and when you need to buy it for many people if they can find something positive in the situation.

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

Inebriated by Katey Taylor

I couldn't read this teenage novel. It would probably suit the teens of today with its raw, emotional story, but I just found it too dark and depressing.  Cait has lots of troubles, and she doesn't help herself with her constant drunkenness! When she meets Adam Cross, things start looking up, I think. I didn't get beyond that, I am afraid.

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

Code Name Madeleine A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Arthur J. Magida

 This is photograph HU 74868 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

I love to read about the SOE and the French Resistance, and this is one of the most fascinating and detailed books that I've read about it.  Although extremely sympathetic to the courageous Indian princess Noor Inayat Khan, Magida also investigates why she was sent to France at all when she was arguably unsuitable for the role. He also tells how awful life under occupation really was for the French, and captures the atmosphere of the dark times in a well-written and thoroughly researched book.

Noor had an interesting upbringing, partly in Moscow, but mostly in Paris, where she was taught Sufi philosophy by her studious musician father. He taught her the importance of bravery and self-sacrifice, but he also emphasized the importance of honesty. This was not helpful when Noor joined the SOE, where she needed to be devious and dishonest and even pretend to be another woman entirely! Noor studied at university, and became a musician and a writer of poetry and fairytales, but when the war came, she wanted to play her part.  The problems were that she was innocent and careless and tended to make mistakes. Noor joined the biggest Resistance organisation Prosper but the Nazis soon managed to break this up, and it was a time when anyone you knew could be a traitor. But Noor knew that she was in danger, and stayed in France while sending her fellow agents and members of the British airforce back to Britain...

This is an inspiring story about Noor and her incredible courage, especially in these miserable times.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A First Book of Verdi by David Dutkanicz

These pieces are easy for beginners, but they retain the spirit and beauty of Verdi's music.  This is an excellent book to buy for any lover of opera music who is starting to play the piano.

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

Code Name Hélène Based on the thrilling true story of Nancy Wake, 'The White Mouse' by Ariel Lawhon

Nancy Wake was a shining heroine of the French Resistance, awarded many medals and a recipient of the greatest French honour.  Although she came from a poor background in NZ and Australia, she bluffed her way into a job in journalism in the UK by pretending to read ancient Egyptian, and then reported on the rise of the Nazis. She even interviewed Hitler! She married the charming and handsome Henri Fiocca, but she didn't want to become the bored wife of a wealthy man, and the war was calling. She began secretly helping British escapees, eventually becoming a leader of the Maquis and the famous 'White Mouse,' hunted by the Nazis...

Ariel Lawhon captures Nancy's brazen and courageous personality, and spins an exciting and moving story about her 'adventures' in the French Resistance, and her love affair and marriage with Henri.  The red-lipstick wearing young woman was widely admired by the men she led, and Lawhon's other characters (most of which are real) are also well-drawn and memorable, especially Ian Garrow.  His story would also make a good novel! I found the constant jumping back-and-forth between the past and the present a bit confusing at times, but this was a great novel, and an excellent tribute to Nancy. I found it difficult to read in ebook format, however, because it is such an epic novel. (I read all the biographies years ago, but I will probably read the Braddon one again!)

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lady Clementine A Novel by Marie Benedict

Marie Benedict brings the independent and feisty Clementine Churchill to life in this lovely epic novel. Surprisingly, although Clementine was aristocratic, she came from a very troubled background and she had to work for a living, as well as cope with strange parents and early family tragedies. This probably gave her the strength to become Winston Churchill's 'rock,' and help her handle his constant demands on her and exceedingly dominant personality.

Benedict captures the significance of the historical times, and makes readers aware of quite what an admirable woman Clementine Churchill really was. For example, during the Second World War, she would tour bombed-out sites practically every night, and she made it her mission to make air-raid shelters more comfortable, as well as doing a lot of other war work.  I was imagining Kristin Scott-Thomas in the movie about Clementine, instead of Winston, while reading this book!

It's certainly an inspiring and enjoyable book to read during these extremely stressful times. I look forward to reading Marie Benedict's other books.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Unravelled Knots: The Teahouse Detective by Baroness Orczy

When the young woman journalist sees her old friend, the teahouse detective, in the cafe, she wants to avoid him. However, this strange creature with baggy trousers, horn-rimmed glasses and claw-like hands exerts a strange fascination with his mystery tales, and she can't help listening again...

Although, Baroness Orczy was one of the pioneers of women's detective stories, and these are well-written and meticulous, her Scarlet Pimpernel books are really the ones to read.  These became rather dry, repetitive and detailed.  I liked some of them, but I am not sure whether I will read any more of these books.

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

Friday, March 13, 2020

How to Wash the Dishes by Peter Miller

This is a very useful book if you want to improve your washing-up. Mine seems to need more work
according to the book. When I have more time, I will write lists of what I should buy and study this again.
The author also suggests ways to relax while washing-up.

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

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Pray Fully by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet

Do you really pray, or do you just rattle off a rote prayer before bed and go to Mass?  This book contains excellent suggestions for praying more fully, and having a meaningful relationship with Jesus. These include telling him all your worries, staying quiet and waiting for answers, and spiritual exercises, It is also important to follow the example of the saints, and to pray more profoundly during Mass. The authors explain how these will help clearly and concisely.

Prayer requires time and effort, and this book will assist you to develop the practice.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy Amazon Publishing UK General Fiction (Adult) , Women's Fiction

Harriet, traumatised by her mother's untimely death, arrives to work as a PR assistant at a fashion house in Paris. Haunted by the story of her grandmother's mysterious time in the war, she is anxious to find out more about it. The book then flashes back to Harriet's grandmother Claire and her friends who worked as seamstresses. These brave young women secretly worked for the French Resistance...

Fiona Valpy describes France beautifully, and captures the exciting but dangerous time of The Second World War. The characters are all very real, although Harriet doesn't play a big part in the book.  It's a lovely book, although one part is extremely harrowing, and I will read more of Fiona Valpy's books.

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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey Edward IV's Chief Mistress and the 'Pink Queen' by Dr John Ashdown-Hill

I am sorry to say that this book really annoyed me.  Although Dr John Ashdown-Hill was a distinguished historian, and very knowledgeable about the Woodvilles, he really disliked his subject, and his arguments failed to convince me. Even the pre-contract with Eleanor Talbot seems tenuous.
Much of this book is pure speculation, I thought.

Ashdown-Hill accuses the Queen of being involved in several murders and mysterious deaths without much evidence.He also includes fairly snide passages, for example, about her ordering meat during Lent and whether she was considered an 'Essex Girl'! I actually felt sorry for her, and anxious to read a nicer book about her in the end!

I bought the book because I didn't download it from NetGalley before the archive date.

A House in the Mountains : The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism Caroline Moorehead

Ada Gobetti. Unknown. The original uploader was Gian- at Italian Wikipedia.. [Public domain]

Four young Italian women all came from Turin, a city in the Piedmontese region, which had a long history of independence and rebellion. They would need this more than ever to face Mussolini's harsh laws and the viciousness of the Nazi occupiers. These young women and their friends in the Italian Resistance had to cope with 'death, air raids, violence [and] penury' instead of the quick victory promised by Mussolini.  These women and thousands of others printed underground newspapers, organised escape routes, helped to sabotage transport, stole explosives and even became commanders of bands. Although the Italian Resistance didn't receive much help from the Allies for various reasons, they formed a united force and managed to liberate Piedmont and the north on their own. The heroines of the book also stayed actively involved in politics.

This book is quite harrowing and upsetting, but fascinating, and it should restore the reputation of the Italian Resistance, and it informs readers about the little-known and hugely important role of the women involved in the Resistance. Sometimes, there are lighter moments. For example, Ada went to a political meeting, and she was only one of two women not dressed as if to go to a party! It seems that Italian women retain their sense of style even in the midst of chaos.

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

Sir Francis Bryan Henry VIII's most notorious ambassador by Sarah-Beth Watkins

This is a very factual book about this diplomat and soldier, who was nicknamed the 'Vicar of Hell' because he liked womanising and drinking. It's hard to feel as if you really know what he was like from reading the book, but it is filled with interesting details about the sixteenth century, Henry's court and Sir Francis's heavy involvement in The Great Matter, and it includes extracts from letters and other documents.

I enjoyed it, but not as much as the author's other books.

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

EDITION    Paperback

ISBN           9781789043419

PRICE        $12.99 (USD)

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Drawing: Colored Pencil Basics Learn to draw step by step by Cynthia Knox

This is a great introduction to using coloured pencils. Cynthia Knox shows readers the basic materials and techniques and she includes beautiful exercises to attempt. It is a very short book but useful and the pictures are inspirational.

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


Thursday, February 06, 2020

He's Got Rhythm : The Life and Career of Gene Kelly Cynthia Brideson, Sara Brideson

film trailer screenshot (MGM) [Public domain]

This book was interesting but extremely long and a bit plodding. I found it hard-going to wade through it! It also almost turned me off Gene Kelly! I like his acting and he had a tough childhood and worked hard, but he was quite unlikeable at times.

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

Anne Bancroft : A Life Douglass K. Daniel

NBC Television [Public domain]

Unfortunately, I didn't finish this one. She is a great actress,but I didn't find her life terribly interesting, unfortunately.

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

Occupation Journal Jean Giono, Jody Gladding (Translated by)

I didn't finish this one, unfortunately. I thought that it would be similar to Iris Origo's War Diaries, but it was strange and disjointed, I thought.

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

Overkill : When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far Paul A. Offit, M.D.

After reading this book, you will think twice about having an annual or biannual mammogram! Dr Paul Offit explains the risks involved, and he also delves into many modern myths about medicine. For example, he asks whether Vitamin C is really good for colds and if taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks is really worthwhile.

This is an eye-opening book to read if you are interested in health and you have questions about modern medical practices.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Clutter-Free Home Making Room for Your Life by Kathi Lipp

This is a really useful book if you want to do the hard work involved in decluttering. Kathy Lipp used to have thirteen bookcases, and tells a story about thanking her friend (who has five children) for cleaning the house for her.  The friend said that she actually didn't clean the house before Kathy visited! Kathy Lipp then decided to try and follow her example.

This is different from most decluttering books because it allows for messiness, and it is also written from a Christian perspective! Kathy Lipp wants readers to repurpose and reorganise their houses so that they become relaxing and warm spaces. She has helpful chapters on how to declutter every room, according to the purpose of the room, the zones of the room and how you would like the room to look and feel. I found that her chapter on the living-room was not as detailed as the other chapters, unfortunately. She also has general advice on what to keep and what to throw away, and on daily and weekly decluttering tasks.  It's all extremely difficult but it's certainly helpful. (It's difficult for me!)

This is certainly a keeper!

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Mutual Admiration Society How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women by Mo Moulton

I thought that I would enjoy this but I found it too long and detailed, unfortunately. The only one who I was really interested in reading about was Dorothy L. Sayers.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Love Without End by Melvyn Bragg

This is a radiant story about the tragic love affair between the revolutionary philosopher Peter Abelard and the beautiful and clever Heloise.  Bragg is, surprisingly, better at bringing Heloise's radical and defiant character to life than Abelard's until the end of the book when Abelard becomes more understandable.  This may be because Abelard appears to today's readers as extremely domineering and self-centred to Heloise.

Bragg deals with this to some extent by making the story a novel within a novel.  He combines the love story with a modern-day tale of the father who is writing it telling his daughter about it, and discussing it with her. This gives it ballast and helps explain medieval religious views and attitudes. I didn't find the characters of the father and daughter as convincing as those of Abelard and Heloise, although their story is quite moving.

I always like Melvyn Bragg's books and this made me want to read more about Abelard and Heloise. The only part that I was upset with was his suggesting that Abelard's arch-enemy William of Champeaux had any part in his castration. There is no evidence for that.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Optimal Outcomes : Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, PhD

It is very easy to get stuck in conflict, especially about politics, but, more importantly, at work. I usually try not to discuss politics or controversial topics at all, but as Goldman-Wetzler writes, this isn't a good way to resolve conflict! I think that her system is probably more useful for those who have conflicts in work and business situations, however, and it is incredibly useful there.

She has developed a set of eight practices to help readers break free from their conflict loops, and she provides useful examples about how these helped people in various situations. It takes a lot of work and thought, but it is certainly worth reading and even just the first practice of just pausing really helps on several occasions.

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

The Imprisoned Princess The Scandalous Life of Sophia Dorothea of Celle by Catherine Curzon

By Jacques Vaillant - Wikimedia Commons

Poor Sophia Dorothea might have been the first Hanoverian Queen, but she became a prisoner instead because of a tragic love affair and the several evil forces against her. A heartbroken bride from the first, Sophia hated her husband Prince George - when she knew of her intended betrothal she threw his miniature across the wall and shouted, "I will not marry the pig snout!" The handsome soldier and adventurer Phillip von Königsmarck   was a very different matter. Sophia Dorothea would pay a terrible price for loving him...

Catherine Curzon brings intelligent and likeable but rather naive Sophia to life in this book, as well as such characters as the evil Clara von Platen. Sometimes, it is a little bit difficult to tell when she is writing actual history or speculation, for example, she theorises somewhat about what happened to von Königsmarck. Although this is a sad story, Curzon tells it in a lively, engaging and enjoyable way. Sometimes her language is very modern, but I didn't find it jarring.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Fell Murder A British Library Crime Classic by E.C.R. Lorac Poisoned Pen Press

The Garths, an old farming family in the North Country who own a large house which has been there since before Flodden Field, are a 'rum lot'. The old Squire is a curmudgeon who controls the family and has disputes with all of his children. Richard, the heir, fell out with him when he married and left for Canada, but he has come back after several years although he is keeping a low profile. Malcolm, sensitive and nervy, hates farming and writes poetry as well as keeping bees. Charles, his half-brother, has come back from Malaya. He hates farming too, being used to lots of servants. Marion, the single daughter, wants to modernize the farm and is arguing with her father. Elizabeth is in the Land Army and staying at the home. Her name is often shortened to 'Lisa'.

When the old father is murdered, suspicion falls on several people, including the mentally-challenged boy who works for him, and a farmer who has a dispute with him. Sensible Inspector MacDonald arrives to solve the dilemma, but finds that getting anywhere with most of this tough and hardened North Country crowd is like getting blood out of a stone...

This was enthralling reading which kept me awake until the small hours. The characters were all interesting and the description of the country was do detailed that I felt as if I was actually there! I also liked the old-fashioned British words like 'gey' and 'trigg'. The Kindle dictionary helped here! I would like to read all of this writer's books.

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

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Abandoned Castles by Kieron Connolly

This is a must-read for anyone who lives castles. Filled with spectacular pictures of abandoned castles all over the world, it contains short introductions describing castles all over the world in each era and short passages about the images. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the author's use of the abbreviations BCE and CE for B.C. and A.D. which always really annoys me.

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

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg Evans Bookouture

This is a rather miserable and melodramatic book with the redeeming features of a lovable hero and an atmospheric setting in a glamorous era.  The self-sabotaging heroine, Tatiana, goes from one disaster to another, although she is likeable enough and her reasons for this are explained. Although I enjoyed the book, I won't be reading it again. Miserable books seem to be very popular at the moment, I am not sure why. The times are bad enough!

The book begins with the evil brother of Tatiana raping her and getting her pregnant. A Russian refugee in Paris, Tatiana works in the couture business and her pregnancy leaves her in grave danger of losing her job. Will her aristocratic fiancee stand by her? What are her feelings about handsome Regan, a smart young American photographer?

I loved the descriptions of life in Paris and the fashion and photography businesses in the 1920s, and I thought that this was a well-written historical novel, although the writing wasn't smooth at times. It is worth reading if you like historical novels.

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