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Friday, July 24, 2020

Blooming Flowers A Seasonal History of Plants and People by Kasia Boddy

Daffodils are like 'ruffled birds on their perches'; the carnation hugs its petals to its heart as it dies; and that Queen of Flowers, the rose, if the 'flower of martyrs and miracles'.  This book about the history and legends of flowers is a delight to read. There are also many accounts of how flowers are featured in the classics, and other books and stories. Kasia Boddy's meticulous research and beautiful writing makes it easy reading and it was lovely to read it in the midst of such grim news.

It does focus on English and American flowers but sometimes tropical flowers are mentioned, such as lotus flowers in India and Africa, and almond flowers in Egypt

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Finding Dora Maar An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun

Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray.

When Brigitte Benkemoun bought an address book by chance on Ebay, she was amazed to find that it was Picasso's famous mistress Dora Maar's address book.  She decided to study this strange woman through her list of friends and acquantainces to find out more about her. And what friends she had! They included Jean Cocteau, Nicolas de Stael, Max Jacob and other glittering members of the Surrealists and Cubists. Benkemoun's account is written in a rather breathless manner, but it is engaging because she includes her own thoughts and struggles to understand Dora.

Picasso first wanted to know who she was when he saw her at a club, planting a knife into a table from higher and higher distances, with blood all over her hands. A talented young photographer and artist who always wore designer clothes, Dora should have had a brilliant career, but her relationship with Picasso, who treated her dreadfully, made her embittered and anguished, and mental illness began to plague her. She turned Catholic but that didn't seem to comfort her, and she also kept a copy of Mein Kampf even though she lived through the war, and knew of the horrors of the Nazi regime. Dora was interesting but difficult to like. I found this a pretty anguished, harrowing story. I felt that Benkemoun was somewhat anti-Catholic at times, which I found annoying.

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

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.