Frequently Auto-Approved
Reviews Published Challenge Participant

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 06, 2018

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

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

I would recommend it for beginners.

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

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

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

I received this free ebook from NetGalley

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

Queen Margaret, ,Daniƫl Mijtens [Public domain]

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey

A Balcony in Paris by Gustav Caillebotte

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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