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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

Monsignor R. H. Benson, Oct., 1912, age 40. Photograph by G. Jerrard

‘'Ministers of euthanasia’ on the scene quickly after a volor (high-speed plane) crash and there are Euthanasia centers for the disabled and anguished. Catholicism is regarded as the enemy and many of the faithful have gone to Rome, the last holdout. The others keep a low profile. England eagerly awaits the coming of Julian Felsenburgh, the new President of Europe who hAs united East and West. There are no wars in this Communist secular ‘utopia’.welcome to the dystopia world imagined by Robert Hugh Benson.

Oliver Brand is an official in the secular, ‘humanitarian’ government and determined to get rid of ‘ superstition and ignorance’,’ and his beautiful wife Mabel is heavily influenced by his views. Although Oliver is supposed to be enlightened, he really has a condescending attitude to Mabel who, he thinks, is inclined to be emotional because she is a woman. Imagine their horror when they find out that Mabel’s mother wants to see a priest and return to her religion! This priest, Fr Percy Franklin, is a calm and strong leader, who doesn’t fear Felsenburgh. 

In this new world, the government decides that people actually need ceremonies to replace the old ones and makes attendance compulsory. Now the Abbey is used for the veneration of Maternity,  Life, Sustenance and Paternity. These ceremonies remind one of some of the New Agey celebrations and, indeed, the new types of church services which are popular today.

Eventually, the battle between these two opposing views, will lead to a huge disaster…

This creepy, remarkably prescient novel by a Catholic convert with its similarities to today’s West with its desire to relegate Christianity
to the sidelines and its tendency to regard man as the enemy, but also worship mankind, had a big influence on the new Pope who has criticized ‘ideological colonisation’. This has created a big interest in the novel.

It is certainly a memorable book but rather wordy. I especially liked Benson’s explanation of Catholic belief.

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

Ave Maria Press

Friday, December 23, 2016

Erte's Theatrical Costumes in Full Color by Erte

This book is an absolute delight for any fan of costume design history, and it is sure to inspire budding theatrical designers. Brilliant and colourful, these costumes include designs for the ballet, the opera and famous actresses, such as Gaby Deslys. My favourites include the monster with three heads for the ballet Sheherazade, the pink and purple flowing octopus  and the fantastic clock with the 18th century lady and the cloaked man.

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

Lucie Aubrac. The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied The Gestapo by Sian Rees

LHochiminh and Bebet
By Paul Durand, photojournalist of Humanity daily (Humanity daily 16/9/1946) [Public domain or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Lucie Aubrac, a heroine of the French Resistance, was certainly an amazing woman and this well-researched and interesting biography by Sian Rees   does her great credit and restores her reputation.  When Klaus Barbie claimed that Lucie and her husband Raymond became informers and betrayed their comrades, the news caused a sensation in France and they had a big struggle to prove that this was not true.  Even some of their former friends accused them, and they suffered for years from this betrayal.

Lucie began her life in Montparnesse in Paris which has become known as a 'poverty-stricken haunt of artists and intellectuals.' It was really an area of slums where Jean Cocteau said that poverty was a luxury. Lucie's mother had to support a sick husband and do laundry work even when she was pregnant. Life became a bit better after the couple moved to the country where Lucie's father grew flowers and vegetables and her mother sold them at the market.  She was surrounded by an extended family - her grandparents helped.  The young girl was always clever and rebellious. For example, she refused to kiss a statue of the Virgin Mary when asked to by her grandmother.

When she was nineteen, Lucie won a place at teaching college after her third try and her parents were delighted. Imagine their astonishment, when she refused to take her place.  She wanted to attend the Sorbonne and get a degree that would give her a much better status and salary.  Lucie had a great struggle to finally get her degree - living in poverty and even teaching herself Latin from scratch. She found friends among Communists and Quakers and work in primary schools but it took her a long time to pass Latin.

Raymond and Lucie shared a great love story even though they came from vastly different backgrounds. Raymond was a member of an atheist Jewish merchant family with money whereas she came from a family of Catholic peasants. However, Raymond's family were pleased with Lucie, who was a cultured university graduate and they were kind and hospitable. Lucie and Raymond could have looked forward to an easy and comfortable life but clouds were on the horizon...

Lucie and Raymond both played huge parts in the French Resistance. They founded one of the most important resistance movements, ran an underground newspaper and served as 'couriers, arms carriers and saboteurs'. Lucie  helped Raymond escape from the very Gestapo and even managed to fool the 'Butcher of Lyon,' Klaus Barbie with stunning sang froid.

Sian Rees describes the horrors of war, the cruelty of the Gestapo, the amazing feats of Raymond and Lucie and their shining characters in a fascinating way.  I also liked reading about Jean Moulin, another hero of the Resistance. This biography is certainly well-worth reading, especially for those who love to read any good book about the French Resistance.

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

Chicago Review Press
256 pages

Monday, December 19, 2016

Confessions of a Convert by The Classic Spiritual Autobiography from the Author of Lord of the World Robert Hugh Benson

Robert Hugh Benson was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury so imagine the scandal when he converted to Catholicism! It was long after his father died, otherwise the shock would probably have been even greater.

This is a lyrical but old-fashioned book in which Benson tells the story of his long search for meaning. Although he became an Anglican priest, the Anglican church never really engaged him. It had 'no spark in it of real vitality,' at least when he was young. He was brought up to think of Catholicism as 'corrupt and decayed' and the extreme Protestants as 'noisy, extravagant and vulgar'. Benson saw the life of a quiet country clergyman with a beautiful garden ahead of him.

However, when he went to Europe, he felt a sense of isolation as an Anglican and he was struck by the strength and continuity of the Catholic church.  These reasons for conversion don't apply so much today - there is much more division within Catholicism now, for example.  However, anyone interested in Catholicism will find this tale of a Victorian clergyman who decided to follow the beat of a different drummer worth reading.

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

The World Reimagined Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century by Mark Philip Bradley

This looked interesting, but it was just too academic for me at the moment.

A Right Royal Scandal Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanna Major and Sarah Murden

Richard Colley Wellesley, Anne's father. (Wikipedia)

What kind of scandals lurk in our Queen's past? What do the love stories of the Cavendish-Bentinck family have to do with her? The answers can be found in this delicious account of two marriages that shocked society in the Georgian and Victorian eras.  These were the marriage of Lady Anne Abdy, the Duke of Wellington's niece, to Lord Charles Bentinck, the son of the Duke of Portland, and his son's marriage to a beautiful gypsy girl.

When the imperious Lady Abdy ran away from her dull husband with the rather impecunious but handsome and charming Lord Charles Bentinck, her relatives were horrified. Her husband actually sued Lord Charles for Criminal Conversation, and she had to endure financial hardship and all sorts of problems.  It is sometimes a bit difficult for the reader to be sympathetic with Lady Anne, however, because of her fiery temper and the extremely high-handed way in which she treated her servants.

Like Father, Like Son

Handsome young Charley Cavendish Bentinck had a bright future ahead of him when he went up to Oxford in 1837 to study theology. This was threatened when he met a captivating and beautiful gypsy girl who came from a rough and ready working-class world.  The gypsies were regarded as exotic at best and thieves and criminals at worst. When Charley's relations found out about his secret wedding, there was all hell to pay... Could such a match last?

I loved reading this book and it certainly made me want to read more about this distinguished family. I will read Fortune's Sisters again about the sisters who fell in love with the Wellesley brothers.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Joy Model by Jeff Spadafora

I am quite religious, but I am afraid that this book by Jeff Spadafora did not work for me.  I may try it again later, but I didn't want to be bothered with the diagrams and it all seemed to be so much work that I decided that I would rather be miserable, or whatever I am! I am sure that Spadafora's suggestions will help people improve their connection with God and their lives and relationships and they are probably worth the reward. However, I don't want to take the time to do it right now.

Spadafora wants readers to carefully read the Bible and apply it to their daily lives, fasting and becoming more self-aware by finding out their strengths and weaknesses and getting rid of their 'false selves'. I will try to stop acting in any way that is based on negative emotions, such as anger and greed. This will be one of my New Year's resolutions!

Unfortunately, I couldn't finish this book. However, Spadafora's blog looks good, so I will read that instead.

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Together at the Table by Hilllary Manton Lodge

Juliette loves her life in Portland, Oregon.  She runs a successful restaurant with her brother and she has a steady boyfriend, Adrian, and a loving family. However, she is still grieving her beloved mother when the book begins and she finds herself missing her ex-boyfriend, Neil.  When she connects with Neil again unexpectedly, she has to make a choice...A crisis at the restaurant helps her to decide what is really important in her life...

Julie is also researching a family mystery concerning her great-uncle which will lead her  to finding long-lost cousins, a château in France and a moving love story set in the horrors of the Second World War.  I found that there were several members of this family and it was quite complicated.  Perhaps, a family tree may have helped!

This was a charming  and romantic story with likeable, warm-hearted people, picturesque settings, a dramatic war-time tale and the bonus of delicious-sounding recipes!  Unfortunately, this is the third book in a series and I like to read series from the beginning.  I will certainly read the other books by Hillary Manton Lodge in order and find out how Juliette met Neil and Adrian.

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

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Saints by Simon Yarrow

This is a fairly academic but interesting look at the saints.  Yarrow studies the origins of the saints, different types of saints and their sanctification and canonisation.  He explores the role that St Paul played in the history of the saints in great depth.

I found the section of the book about the section of the book about the Reformation the most fascinating part.  Here, Yarrow writes about Erasmus who criticised pilgrimage, the cult of saints and the veneration of relics under the guise of an erudite fool.  He discusses the drastic solution to idolatry of iconoclasm, or the breaking of images, a practice that was unfortunately pretty widespread during the Reformation and the 39 Articles of the Anglican church.

This is worth reading if you are interested in the saints or for an assignment about their history.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Edwardian Ladies' Hat Fashions by Peter Kimpton

 Gaiety Girls

When Peter Kimpton first saw postcards of Edwardian ladies with their gorgeous big hats, he fell in love with them and decided to start collecting them.  He originally wanted to write this book to showcase his collection and it is certainly full of beautiful pictures of postcards of different women in glamorous hats. However, he soon discovered that there was a dark side to the manufacture of the hats.

This dark side involved the cruelty to and killing of thousands of birds for their plumes.  Some even went extinct.  Sometimes, the wings of the poor birds were ripped off while they were still alive.  Even exotic birds in remote places like New Guinea were killed for their colourful feathers.  Chanel began her career by making these hats and there is a picture by a Scottish artist in the book showing her surrounded by dead birds.

Another problem was the terrible conditions in the sweatshops where young women got the feathers ready for the hats.  Apparently, many of them got TB, bad skin or fever from all the dust and fluff.  No wonder there were several strikes in New York over pay and conditions!

Soon people started to worry about the cruelty to the birds and societies for their protection were formed. Laws were passed banning the sale of plumage from native birds and the importation of feathers in some places. President Theodore Roosevelt was so concerned about the situation that he passed an Executive Order making Hawaii into a bird reservation area.

This book isn't all depressing, however.  It has chapters about famous photographers, such as Samborne, the women who appeared on the postcards, and other interesting information about the times. For example, it has a short chapter on going to the seaside.

This is an excellent book for people interested in Edwardian fashion.

I received this free book from Net GallNet Galleyey in exchange for an honest review.

Year of No Clutter A Memoir by Eve Schaub

Eve Schaub usually just shut the door and left it alone.  'It' was 'The Hell Room', the largest room in her house, 567 square feet. Why did she do this? The room was unusuable because it was filled with stuff, mostly detritus, clutter and things. The easiest thing to do was run away from the room, instead of doing anything about it. After all, it didn't affect her family's life - or did it? She certainly wasn't that dreadful person, a hoarder - or was she?

The problem was that the room made her feel guilty. There was even a dessicated mouse in a box inside the room! Many clutter books tell you to have a 'box room,' but this was really too much! Eve Schaub decided to tackle the room, and write a book about it. Luckily, she obtained her daughter's help.

Although this book is sometimes repetitive, Schaub seems to be such a likeable, lovely person that she makes it very easy to sympathise with her and be with her every step of the way as she tries to clear up the huge room.  As she tackles the room, she muses on hoarding, clutter, and the difficulty of throwing things out. She mentions various methods of getting rid of clutter such as Marie Kondo's strategy for discarding anything that doesn't give you joy. She tells hilarious stories.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it, especially for people who have trouble with their 'stuff'.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

My Life with the Saints (10th Anniversary Edition) by James Martin, SJ

Father James Martin's life with the saints began when he sent away for a small statue of St. Jude, the saint of lost causes. However, he grew embarassed about his little figurine and only took it out on special occasions.  He had a similar attitude towards his faith, until he struggled with a life as a businessman that he found meaningless and saw a documentary about Thomas Merton which changed his life.
Father James Martin's

He read Merton's autobiography and went in 'search' of him.  Merton struck Father Martin as bright, funny and creative - someone who could have been a good friend.  He also struggled with the big questions, such as the purpose of life and 'Who is God'?  Father Martin felt an invitation to the monastic life after reading Merton's book.

When he entered the monastery, he discovered that many of the Jesuits had special attachments to saints - one told him that he thought of them as siblings who gave advice and counsel. Martin began to read more about them and he learned that he could 'easily recognize' himself or parts of himself 'in their stories'. He read about the bravery of St Joan of Arc who also introduced him to the language of the saints,  studied the life and the great spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, and read about the sufferings of St Therese who said that she would send a 'shower of roses' after she died.

I was a bit amazed to read that he had never seen The Song of Bernadette before he entered the monastery! I wasn't brought up Catholic, but it was on TV here often when I was young. He writes movingly about my favourite saint, St Bernadette, and how she helped him to remain true to his personal vision, and about his pilgrimage to Lourdes.

This is a wonderful book about Father Martin's relationship with the saints, what he learns from them and how they help him.  It will certainly assist all Christian readers to grow closer to the saints themselves. For example, I felt a bit down last night and decided to ask St Jude to pray for me. This immediately made me feel better and gave me a feeling of peace.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 by Richard Tregaskis

By Frank Turgeon Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the crew if the tiny torpedo boat, PT-109, saw the huge Japanese ship looming over them, they were terrified with good reason.  The crewmen of the other boats who witnessed the collision thought that no one could have survived and plans were made to hold a memorial service. However, Kennedy, the young 'skipper' of the boat had other plans. He saved most of his crew, a remarkable feat which even involved being shipwrecked on an island and big storms which hindered the rescue attempt. This had a terrible effect on his health, apparently.

I don't usually like war books, but I couldn't resist one about JFK by the great war correspondent, Tregaskis. This sets the scene of the battles in the South Pacific against the 'Tokyo Express' and the Japanese destroyers and Kennedy's background very clearly and Tregaskis vividly relates the dramatic and exciting story of the rescue and the detrimental effect on Kennedy's health of the wearisome battles in the South Pacific. I was a bit surprised that there was no mention of Kennedy having Addison's disease, but the author wouldn't have known about this when he wrote the book.

Richard Tregaskis led a fascinating life as a correspondent in the war so I am going to look for some of his other books.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

This is a strange and vivid account of two young women who work in a bottle factory in the nineteen-sixties, inspired by Bainbridge's stint at a similar plant. Freda is wild, flirtatious and imaginative while Brenda is shy and easily-led by her bossy friend. They are both carried away by the handsome Italians at the factory who think that they are very forward but they don't realise this. There is certainly a big contrast between the old-world Italians and the 'fast' English women here.

I didn't go on with this because I am a nineteenth-century person and I found Bainbridge's staccato style rather dry, although it is certainly evocative. Also, I didn't like any of the characters so I didn't really care what happened to them. Having said that, I am enjoying The Birthday Boys by the same author much more.

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

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Making Headlines by Chris Mitchell

Making Headlines by the former Ediitor-in-Chief of The Australian a tour de force through Mitchell's relationships and opinions of several Prime Ministors. He also provides inside details on famous and controversial stories, such as Manning Clark's links with The Soviet Union. Some of these accounts will make your hair stand on end. 

Mitchell doesn't spare any ex-PM's. He describes his fraught arguments with Rudd, for example, who appears in the book as strange and bad-tempered and a micro-manager. He got on better with Abbott until he told him that he ran an independent newspaper. However, Mitchell's opinion was that Abbott gave Peta Credlin far too much power. Abbott was also too loyal to his Ministers, such as Hockey, who he really regarded as lazy.

Julia Gillard comes in for the worst serve. Mitchell's opinion of her alleged attempts to restrict the freedom of the Press and why she wanted to are especially interesting. His comparison of the present Labor Party with that of Hawke and Keating is also worth reading.

Some of the book is gossip. For example, Mitchell's account of the end of Murdoch's marriage is one example, but who doesn't enjoy some scandal?

Mitchell provides a chapter on the future of journalism and then he gives details about famous stories. One of these was a shocking cover-up and so worrying that it didn't help my sleep! This involved one of Brisbane's most prestigious schools.

I highly recommend this memoir but I didn't enjoy it as much as the one by Harold Evans.

Publisher: Melbourne University Press
209 pages
Price: ebook $8.09

I received this free ebook from net Galleyin exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Summer of Love by Katie Fforde

Katie  Fforde writes sweet and light romances which are perfect for holiday reading. This one was no exception. I was sorry to finish it because the characters became like old friends! Fortunately, there are still some Katie Fforde novels which I haven't read.

When Sian moves from London to a small village to find a better school for her son Rory, she discovers that Rory's father is her new friend, Fiona's son. She never told Gus about Rory and when he returns from his explorations, old feelings rush back. But how does he feel, and, more importantly, is he a suitable father for Rory? Stable and wealthy Richard loves Sian, so she faces a struggle between the two men.

Sian's friend Fiona decides to try internet dating.

This was enjoyable reading with likeable characters. Katie Fforde also mentions Ethel M. Dell. I must try her novels!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wonder Women 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Mags

This book about great women is inspiring and interesting and highly recommended for teenage girls. However, I didn't like the 'slangy' language, such as 'dudes'.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Planet Jackson Power, Greed and Unions by Brad Norington

Luxury holidays, private schools, clothes, perfume, presents, electronics. These are just some of the ways in which some of the leaders of the Health Services Union spent union funds obtained from their poorly paid members. These members were amongst the lowest-paid workers in the country. The greed, corruption and lack of oversight in this organisation was almost unbelievable.

Brad Norington has carefully gone through the evidence in this well-written account. However, some of the machinations and intricate dealings of people like Kathy Jackson were necessarily convoluted and can be difficult to follow at times. Michael Williamson, now in jail, had a family company which he used to spend union funds, hid this so carefully that even the lawyers of the Royal Commission had difficulty finding it.

Abbott, the former PM, and Shorten,the Opposition Leader, do not come out well in this book. Abbott appointed Michael Lawlor, and then didn't do anything about his taking long periods of unpaid leave from his important role at the Fair Work Commission and various other matters. Turnbull was quick to act, apparently.

The book raises questions about Shorten that are far worse than this, however. Several criminal and civil offences occurred when he was in charge of the Victorian AWU branch. What was he doing? This is the man who could be Australia's next Prime Minister.

This horrifying story of unmitigated corruption and greed should be required reading for all Australians.

I received this free e-book published by Melbourne University Press from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dylan's Nobel Prize

I completely agree with this article!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

Noel Coward wrote in 1939 that: 'Paris is beautifully war-gay. Nobody dresses and everybody collects at Maxim's'. Life was good for the glamour- set such as Coward and Chanel who lived at the Ritz which had the best bomb shelter in Paris. Some of them refused to face reality and thought that the threat of war would just go away, while others continued to live jet-set lives and even collaborated.

Sebba has written an excellent and interesting study of how the war changed the lives of these French women and women who worked for the Resistance or helped the Jews and poor women who faced a more desperate struggle than ever. This is a must-reAd for anyone fascinated by France during the Second World War.  

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

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

Nat Sakunworarat, Power of Light, Public Domain Pictures

When I first started reading this book, I didn't find Shauna Niequist's writing at all relaxing. Her description of her busy, hurried life with her husband and family, her stellar career and her travelling and speaking engagements made me feel rather frantic myself! She was probably heading for a burn-out if she continued to pursue that kind of life, so I wasn't surprised that she started looking for a more peaceful life. Much of the book is written in the present tense which didn't have a calming effect.

However, as Shauna started to live a less frantic life, I found that her writing settled down as well and I liked the quotations, Catholic references and bits of philosophy that she includes.  This is a helpful book for everyone who wants to live a less stressful life, not just those who are trying to combine careers with motherhood.  Her account of how she was seeking approval from others and suffering from exhaustion and her journey towards peace, grace, gratitude and finding God's love will resonate with many readers.

This book reminded me of a quotation from one of my favourite books, The Purple Veil by Somerset Maugham: 'One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul'.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Six The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson

Asthall Manor, the family home of the Mitford sisters. (Wikipedia)

I could never read enough books about the Mitford sisters. They are endlessly fascinating, especially the wonderful Nancy, who wrote the adorable Love in a Cold Climate. Another book about them is a welcome addition!

This book is a little bit academic and factual, but it is very analytical and Laura Thompson certainly explains Diana's and Unity's personalities and why they were drawn to Fascism, extremely well. She also describes Jessica's character and I was pleased that she has little sympathy for Jessica's attraction to Communism and makes it clear that Stalin was a tyrant and murderer, like Hitler. History has been kinder to Jessica and she did get involved in the civil rights movement. However, Communism is just as bad as Fascism and 'fellow-travelling' in either direction shouldn't be condoned.

This may become the definitive book about the sisters. It's all here  - the mistakes of the parents, the combative rivalries between the sisters, their love affairs, and the differences between their personalities.  If you are interested in the Mitford's, you should read it soon!

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Christmas at Designer's Homes Across America by Katharine Kaye McMillan & Patricia Hart McMillan Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

This is a gorgeous coffee-table book to inspire your Christmas decorations at this holy time of year.  It's full of beautiful photos with interesting descriptions as well as chapters on famous designers.  All of the designers have very different ideas about how to embellish their homes for Christmas.

The designers include Christopher Radko with his love of vintage ornaments, such as toy soldiers from The Nutcracker, and nostalgic Christmas trees, Shayla Coplas, who also likes a traditional Christmas.  She prefers a more glamorous style, however, with glittering reindeers, and gold and Tiffany blue decorations on the tree.  Another designer is Mary Helen McCoy. Her house is filled with fine French antiques and she likes gilded birds and peacocks.

Many of the designers fill their houses with roses because they are a symbol of Jesus.  I didn't know that, and I like that idea, as well as many of the others.

I received this book from Schiffer Publishing via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

Anna Leonowens (Wikipedia)

I have always wanted to read this book since I saw the wonderful movie The King and I when I was very young, and I wasn't disappointed! It's a wonderfully exotic and vivid story about a clash of cultures and the strange tyrannical world of the old East, and a brave young woman's struggle to 'own' her place in it.  It's the kind of book that one could read many times without being bored.

When Anna, a young widow, arrived in Siam with her ten-year old son, she was given an ignominious welcome and had to insist to herself that she wouldn't get straight back on the ship! After this, she was not given her own house for months and she had to cope with a lack of privacy and the stifling quarters of the palace. When her poor servant walked into the harem accidentally, she had to stop him being whipped.

The King kept her waiting, and she had little to do.  When she finally met him, she found him rather terrifying, although she very engagingly felt a strong urge to leapfrog down the lines of squatting figures  in front of him. Anna finds it hard to cope with the irascible and unpredictable king, the cruelty and slavery in the nineteenth-century Kingdom, and the ghastly tropical heat and humidity.
However, she is a very strong, independent and stable woman and she copes admirably.

This is a beautifully-written book that is highly-recommended.

I received this from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Friday, September 16, 2016

River Run by Nicole Alexander

I loved the last book that I read by Nicole Alexander. However, I just found the writing too 'slangy' in this one, so I couldn't get into it.

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

The Gay Monarch by Edward VII

Coronation Portrait of Edward VII by Sir Luke Fildes (Wikipedia)

Please don't be confused by the title of this book. Edward VII most certainly wasn't gay in the modern meaning of the word! He loved women and had lots of mistresses.

This is an excellent introduction to the life of this interesting monarch, although Jane Ridley's book is far more detailed and more thoroughly researched.  However, this is written in a lively style and Virginia Cowles certainly discusses all the salient points of Edward VII's life, although she really doesn't go into depth about the episode with Nelly Clifton and Edward's parent's somewhat fanatical attitude to Edward's immorality, which I found somewhat surprising.  However, she describes King Edward's rigid schooling and lonely childhood, Queen Victoria's treating him as a child by not letting him see the all-important red boxes, and her general lack of faith in him.  

Cowles's writing is especially vivid when Edward becomes King and she explains how he charmed a hostile Paris and his fraught relationship with his difficult nephew, the Kaiser.  I enjoyed this part of the book the best. I want to read more books by Cowles, whose writing is not at all dry or dull.

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

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance by Michael Beschloss

(President Roosevelt, Wikipedia)

When Roosevelt's son told his father, the President, that Joseph Kennedy wanted to go to the Court of Saint James, he saw him almost topple from his wheelchair from laughing! However, Kennedy got his way, as he usually did.

This book is an excellent study of the strange relationship between these two powerful men who had different and opposing ideas of leadership and public service. Kennedy was ultimately conservative and practical, disliking too much taxation and extension of government powers, while Roosevelt was the opposite. Their contradictions came to a head when Kennedy became the Ambassador to Britain, started asserting his ideas about appeasement and undermining the President on the side in a misguided campaign to run for power himself. Before this, Kennedy and Roosevelt shared a strange friendship and got on well. Roosevelt even put the former speculator and bootlegger in charge of policing Wall Street, which Louis Howe stated was 'like setting a cat to guard the pigeons'.

It's an interesting book by historian Michael Beschloss but very serious. I must admit to preferring The Gatekeeper, about Roosevelt's private secretary, which was easier reading.

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

Monday, September 05, 2016

Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia

Carl Van Vechten photograph of Anna Mae Wong

This is a fun-to-read book for girls of all ages! Beccia has included historical 'rebels', such as Elizabeth 1 who had portraits painted with ermines because they represented purity and courageous Dolley Madison with her exotic turbans. I especially enjoyed reading about Anna Mae Wong who started off lifting eight-pound irons in her Chinese father's laundry and became a famous actress. She said: 'I want to become mentally and spiritually all that is possible for me to be'. It also contains articles about some of today's fashion rebels. I am more interested in the historical ones.

Beautiful fashion illustrations by Beccia accompany the text and there are also quizzes.

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

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Magnificent Missy. The Gatekeeper. Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith

An admirer of Missy (Mar LeHand, President Roosevelt's private secretary, once said that 'she got the Oval Office working with the precision of a Swiss watch'.  This 'Queen' of the White House staff wielded much power and influence in the president's administration and she acted as the gatekeeper to the president and advised him on 'policy and appointments, speeches and actions'.  For example, Missy told a college student from Somerville who worked for FDR's election to call her at the White House if he ever came to Washington.  Thomas P. O'Neill did just that, and Missy took him to meet the president. The famous 'Tip' O'Neill always credited Missy with giving him his start.

Missy came from humble beginnings and suffered from rheumatic fever when she was 15 which weakened her heart, but she didn't let these problems stop her from having a prestigious career. Raymond Moley, a professor and a member of a group of advisers called the 'Brain Trust' wrote that: 'She had every virtue and every talent needed by the super-confidential secretary of a man in high office.' Although Missy often suffered from illness, she manged to work late into the night, and she was a huge help to Roosevelt's charitable activities, as well as being a glamorous hostess.  Sam Rosenman thought that she was a better hostess than Eleanor, Roosevelt's wife, because Eleanor could be argumentative and aggressive, whereas Missy could lead conversations and charm guests with her 'gracious manner'.

Roosevelt even seemed to get on much better with Missy than with Eleanor, enjoying gossiping and sharing jokes with him. It has often been suggested that Missy was Roosevelt's mistress, and she was seen sitting on his lap in a white nightgown by his son and their bedrooms were nearby.  However, Missy was a strong Catholic and the love of her life was William Bullitt, Ambassador to France.  Also, Eleanor liked her and they were good friends, so Eleanor either trusted her or she didn't care!

Missy at her desk, Wikipedia

The end of this biography is harrowing and Roosevelt let Missy down, considering all the work she did for him.  Missy led a short life but she seemed to enjoy every minute and she certainly led a 'life well-lived'.

I really enjoyed this fascinating and thoroughly-researched biography which vindicates Missy, whose role has been downgraded in films such as Hyde Park on Hudson which showed Missy as one of Roosevelt's mistress, and countless books, including some that I have read. There are extensive notes and a large bibliography.  I also found the account of why Kathryn Smith wrote the book very inspiring. I will be buying this one!

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

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Life of Louis XVI by John Hardman

I had trouble reading this even though I am very interested in the subject. It was an excellent study of Louis's character and the turbulent times, but I found the writing a bit dry and complicated, I am afraid. Hardman certainly proved that Louis was not stupid, so I am pleased about that! Vincent Cronin's old history of Louis was more enjoyable. However, I need to read the printed book so I will read that and study it closely when I have more time!

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leo Tolstoy's Family Recipe Book by Sergei Beltyukov

This recipe book was compiled for Sophia, Tolstoy's wife, by her brother, and contains diary entries by many of the family as well as extracts from the novels.  These will take you into another world in which much more time was spent cooking and enjoying food than it is today.  Tolstoy had a big family and lots of visitors so they shared many discussions around the dining table!

Some of these recipes look as though they will be a bit difficult and take a long time to cook, but I will start off with the easier ones.  I am sure that they are delicious.

Some pictures of the recipes would have enhanced the book, I think.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Queen Bees by Siân Evans

(Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent)

Queen Bees tells the story of six great society hostesses during the inter-war years; Lady Astor, Lady Colefax, Lady Londonderry, Lady Curnard, Laura Corrigan and Mrs Ronnie Grenville. These driven, ambitious women had an immense effect on the inter-war era on politics, culture and even royalty.  Apparently, Maud Cunard and Sibyl Colefax actually fostered the relationship between Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson.

Surprisingly, most of these women came from inauspicious backgrounds. Mrs Grenville was the illegitimate daughter of a millionaire and brought up in an Edinburgh lodging house, for example. Laura Mae Corrigan was born in rural poverty in the American Midwest and she allegedly worked as a telephone operator when she met the fabulously wealthy James Corrigan.  It was love at first sight, so she quickly divorced her respectable husband, a doctor.

These ladies could have stayed 'ladies of leisure' with their rich husbands, but they were so busy that it was sometimes tiring to just read about their activities.  Two of them even had successful careers late in life - Lady Astor and Lady Colefax (interior design).  Lady Astor had lots of children as well as her political life and her famous society functions.

This is a fascinating book full of anecdotes.  I especially like Lady Astor's telling a crowd that she 'would rather commit adultery than have a glass of beer!' Someone replied: 'Who wouldn't?'

I also liked reading about this Downton Abbey-like world of still-Edwardian luxury and style.  These ladies lived in large town and country houses with several servants, 'gleaming silver', and superb dining. This book could be another excellent mini-series, or, at least a documentary!

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Beautiful Spy. The Last Goodnight by Howard Blum

When a handsome old flame offered to write Betty Pack's biography, she slipped out of her older husband's French castle, and had a whirlwind romance with him in Ireland where she told him her adventures. And what adventures they were! The beautiful and well-bred American spy rescued an aristocrat from prison during the Spanish Civil War, rescued the British Ambassador from the same war, and passed on top-secret intelligence to London from bedrooms in Warsaw and dark streets in Prague.  She was the mistress of the 'honey-trap' and slept with many men in order to obtain their secrets. She was amoral, betraying her husband and deserting her son for the cause, but, according to Howard Blum, she even managed to change the course of World War Two!

I found this lively, well-written book about 'Cynthia' with its vivid descriptions difficult to put down.  I did wonder whether the author was half-in-love with his subject, however! She was likeable, but she was very selfish at times.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

In The Company of Dolphins by Irwin Shaw

(Aerial view of Saint Tropez, Wikipedia)
This account of a yacht cruise through the Mediterranean was the perfect book to read after The Red Wake! Shaw describes an idyllic trip through the spectacular coastline in the nineteen-sixties with his wife and son.  There were not as many tourists then and it really was a dreamlike world.  It reminded me of visiting Alassio with my parents when I was 11!

Shaw came from poverty but he certainly rose to live a jetset lifestyle.  During his voyage, he catches up with friends, such as the famous French writer Francoise Sagan, who wrote Bonjour Tristesse as a teenager, and the Australian Alan Moorehead.  This is a great book to dip into now and again to see how the wealthy and famous live, and to read about the beautiful Mediterranean!

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

The Red Wake by Kurt Johnson

(Chernobyl, Wikipedia)

As Kurt Johnson writes: 'History is a substance with weight and the more riven with tragedy the heavier it becomes'.  When Johnson decides to try to understand the world his grandparents left behind, he doesn't realise what he is letting himself in for! This is a dark tale of travels through the remains of a once horrific Gulag, war-torn countries of the former Soviet Union and even deserted Chernobyl with its irradiated animals.

It's all terrifically bleak and most of the people who Johnson writes about seem to be either depressed or strange, but the history is very interesting, especially the conflicts between the Christians and the Muslims and it also makes the yearning for Communism and even Stalin which affects the Russia of today clearer.  It's obviously a very unhappy place and Johnson should be praised for putting himself through all this! He manages to weave history, travel and memoir into a book which is worth reading if you want to find out more about the former Soviet Union.

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

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Savvy Sister. Sister Eve and the Blue Nun: A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery by Lynne Hinton

When Sister Eve's friend Kelly, a young lecturer, is killed by drinking cyanide in her tea, she is shocked and horrified.  Who could have murdered her? Was it her brother, Brother Anthony, who was upset with Kelly because she was about to make secret information that he'd given her about a nun who had committed miracles by appearing to a tribe of Native Americans when she was in Spain public? His actions after her death seem rather suspect, but he is a good friend of Sister Eve, and she doesn't think that he could have committed murder.

Sister Eve wonders if she should even become involved because she is struggling to decide whether to remain a nun or work with her irascible father, Jack Devine.  However, she is determined to find out the truth.  Can she cope with the dangers involved? How will she handle her attraction to a certain handsome detective? Will she eventually return to her beloved New Mexico?

This is an enjoyable and well-written mystery with a likeable 'streetwise' sister who rides a motorcycle and an interesting plot. Some reviewers have pointed out that she lies rather a lot, considering that she's a nun, however! he intrigues and rivalries of the community were well-done.  I also liked learning more about New Mexico and the snippets about its art, culture and history.

I will definitely read more books by Lynne Hinton.

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

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Big Change Frederick Lewis Allen

Although I really enjoyed reading about the incredibly wealthy Vanderbilts, Morgans and Carnegies, I didn't finish this book because I found parts of it a bit text-bookish and dry. It's a good book to read if you want to study this era of American history in great detail.

I may continue reading it later.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Everything Love Is by Claire King

In the dramatic beginning of this book, a young mother gives birth on a train and suddenly dies. No one knows who she is.  Her son, Baptiste, is adopted by the childless woman who tries to help his mother, and yearns for his mother and his true identity.

Many years afterwards, Baptiste lives a lovely life on a houseboat in France, where he counsels people and plays the piano.  He has great insight into other people's problems and he loves his work, but love remains elusive. Can Baptiste manage to find true love with the one woman who understands him?

This is a beautifully written and utterly charming book, but I did find it a little bit confusing with its flashbacks and tendency to jump between characters and situations.  Also, it was all written in lower-case which was hard to get used to, but it was a moving love story and I'll certainly be reading much more of the wonderful Claire King!

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

Roald Dahl by Jeremy Treglown

This was well-written and enjoyable for people interested in Roald Dahl.  I must be one of the very few people who didn't read his books when I was a child, so I decided not to finish the book.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp

(A nutmeg tree, Wikimedia Commons)

Julia sings in the bath even though her furniture is being taken away, the bailiffs are at the door, and she is an out-of-work and aging actress! However, she does have some happy news.  Her daughter Susan, who has been raised by her proper upper middle-class grandparents, is about to get married and she needs her.  Julia rushes off to a beautiful country house in France only to find that her daughter is a prig and she recognizes a kindred spirit in twinkling-eyed Bryan, her daughter's fiancée.
They are not suited at all! What is Julia going to do? The arrival of Sir William, Susan's guardian, also puts a spanner in the works...

I could hardly put this fast-moving novel down with its charming heroine and her amusing adventures, its descriptions of the gorgeous French scenery, and its sweet love stories.  I was sad to finish it! More of the wonderful Margery Sharp, please.

I received this free eBook from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley.

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

In the midst of occupied France, Mathieu helps Allied airmen escape. He is assisted by many people, including young Lisette who delivers messages by bicycle and beautiful and aristocratic Anne Marie, but when he is offered several thousands of dollars, he has to decide who he can trust... He must also keep away from Major Broehm who is sent to France to destroy the escape networks.

Kind-hearted and funny Mathieu is a likeable character and this is an atmospheric and enjoyable novel.  However, I prefer some of the other novels of Alan Furst, such as The Spies of Warsaw with its noble hero.  I found this one a little bit too much like an airport novel at times and it had some unnecessarily sordid scenes, I thought.  I look forward to his next book, though!

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Eternal Party by Kristina Hagman and Elizabeth Kaye

When Larry Hagman was on his deathbed, he asked his daughter Kristina to forgive him.  He didn’t say the reasons, so she decided to go on a journey back in time to find out.  This is her story…
Was it because of his several affairs?  After he died, former mistresses would tell Kristina how much Hagman meant to them which Kristina, unsurprisingly, found quite insensitive.  He had a long and very happy marriage, however. He even tried to care for his Swedish designer wife by himself when she got Alzheimer’s.

Was it because he was often drunk or on drugs, mostly marijuana?  People who grew up watching Hagman as the straight-laced Tony in ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’ will find this book, especially this part of it disillusioning.  Apparently, Hagman was really a somewhat left-wing hippie who searched for enlightenment, even taking LSD. 

Was it because Kristina’s parents were loving, but quite negligent with her care?  Although Hagman’s family spent a lot of time outdoors (he loved hunting and fishing) and she liked that, she had an unstable childhood and she had bad experiences.  Her beloved grandmother Mary Martin took better care of her.  It surprised me that she was jealous of Kate Burton, the daughter of Sybil and Richard Burton, who seemed to have had a ‘meticulous’ upbringing.

This is an interesting and well-written autobiography, although rather sordid at times.  It certainly shows the power of resilience.

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

Murder on the Quai by Cara Black

Quai in Paris, Wikipedia

This clever detective story by Cara Black will keep you turning the page until the very last minute!

At the beginning, Aimee, the young daughter of a detective, is struggling with her medical degree and upset with her handsome boyfriend who has left her for another woman.  She is also angry with her father who has disappeared and left her to run an errand to help a cousin Elise, whose father has been murdered.

Aimee becomes more and more involved in the search for the killer, which involves her in a lot of dangerous journeys through seamy parts of Paris.  When other men are murdered in similar ways, Aimee starts to wonder about a connection.  Does it have anything to do with the war and the Resistance?

I really enjoyed this exciting tale. Aimee is a very likeable, brave and well-rounded character and the atmosphere of 1989 Paris is so vivid that I felt that I was travelling through its famous streets with her.  She is even amusing at times.

There were a few flaws, I thought. I found the story a bit complicated and I felt that the ending was devised to make readers want to read the next book in the series.  However, I would want to do that anyway!  I wasn’t sure about the politics at times.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Moggerhanger by Alan Sillitoe

The EPUB seemed to have a lot of mistakes, but I don't think that this is my kind of book, anyway. I will try reading it on Kindle. I like Alan Sillitoe's account of his travels in Europe, however.

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

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Although I love the Cazalets, I found it difficult to get into this one so I didn't go on with it. It was very bleak and involved a lot of stream of consciousness writing which I find rather heavy-going.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Young Louise lives in a privileged and entrancing world in her family's town house and its country house, where she is surrounded by a beautiful English garden with lavender and honeysuckle,  Although she is the heroine, this first book of the Cazalet series also introduces her large family.  She has two uncles, Rupert with his selfish younger wife Zoe and Hugh with his cultured wife Sibyl and cousins, such as Clary.  This Downton Abbeyesque life of the family only really exists on the surface, however - there are lots of family secrets.  For example, Rachel, Louisa's spinster aunt is really a lesbian and Edward, Louisa's father is a philanderer.  Even though it is 1937, Rupert Brooke would fit into this upper-class existence easily, but the winds of change are about to affect the lotus-eating existence of the Cazalets...

This is the kind of novel that you can actually live in.  The Cazelets are so real that they begin to feel like the wealthy family nearby. This beautifully written novel discussed issues such as homosexuality, contraception and incest.  I was going to write that it was ahead of its time, but it was published in 1990 so I am not sure about that! However, actually having a gay character in the book was probably unusual in 1990.

This is the third time that I have read this book and I never fail to enjoy it.  It made me want to watch the excellent TV series again as well.

Interview with Elizabeth Jane Howard

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

The More of Less. Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

 Joshua Becker  told his little son who was crying that he couldn't spend time with him until he'd finished clearing out his garage.  Then he realised that he was choosing his possessions over his son! This began his journey towards minimalism, a fantastically popular blog      and this book.  This is an excellent book to read for anyone who is interested in decluttering, but 'clutter people' will probably find it all extremely difficult.

There are several advantages of minimalism, according to Becker. These include 'more time, more money, less stress, less distraction' and 'more freedom'.  We often buy stuff in order to seek security, apparently.  It's better to do this by choosing 'loving relationships with other people' instead.  Also, if you spend less time buying things and decluttering, you have more time to achieve your dreams.

 Becker  provides a process to help people start decluttering, by assorting things into specific piles, labelling them and dealing with them in the appropriate way.  He gives tips for getting rid of objects, such as paper, books and gadgets, which are very helpful.  However, booklovers may find some of these suggestions pretty difficult!

The stories of people who experimented with minimalism are the most interesting part of the book, I found.  For example, Courtney was suffering with MS and decided that she needed less stress. She realised that she was buying too many clothes so she chose to use just 33 items of each item of clothing for three months and started the popular Project 333.

This book will certainly help you buy less and start decluttering.  Whether you will become a minimalist or not is another matter...

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, July 01, 2016

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

The wonderfully handsome Peter Davison as Albert Campion. (Wikipedia)

After Campion dramatically saves an old American judge from death on a cruise ship, his children engage his detective services.  Campion decides to arrange for the judge and his children to stay in an old Suffolk house near his country home so that he can protect him from the dangerous Simister gang.  This gang has already murdered all of the judge's servants!  The poor judge's troubles continue in the eerie Suffolk countryside.  Soon after he arrives, an old minister commits suicide,  and other mysterious events start occurring.

Albert Campion is a disarming detective with a liking for frivolity and a pet jackdaw called Autolycus.  The other characters are not nearly as interesting but the intricacies of the tension-filled plot and the spooky descriptions of Suffolk make up for this.  It is an extremely English vintage detective story in which the characters live in luxury, no one worries about money too much, and people use words like 'ducky'. I really enjoy these 'Golden Age' detective tales, but they are not for everyone!

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Ties that Bind by Lexi Landsman

Jade stays to defend her beloved olive plantation in country Victoria even though her grandmother and father leave.  She has to eventually run for her life and almost dies but a handsome young firefighter saves her.  He helps her rebuild the property and recover her shattered life, but Jade is also troubled by family secrets.  Why did her mother leave her? Why did her grandmother hate her mother so much?

Courtney and David live in Miami, on the other side of the world.  When their wonderful son is afflicted by an extremely dangerous form of leukemia, Courtney, has to make tough decisions.  Courtney, who was adopted, is also troubled by secrets, especially when when she starts looking for the truth about her family.

How do these two stories intertwine?

This is a riveting tale about the importance of family with likeable characters and a moving love story.  The effects of the terrible fire in Victoria are vividly described and the beauty of the Australian countryside springs to life with Landsman's exquisite writing. I did find both stories rather harrowing, however.

I will certainly be looking out for more novels by Lexi Landsman.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nobody Said Not To Go The Life, Loves and Adventures of Emily Hahn by Ken Cuthbertson

When Emily Hahn was asked why she risked her life in the middle of fierce fighting to spend a weekend in Nanking, she said: 'Nobody said not to go!' This indicates the kind of woman that she was.

Emily (Mickey) loved to disobey the rules. This famous writer travelled in Africa alone in the 1930s and caused scandal almost everywhere she went. Expats in China were especially shocked by her having a Chinese boyfriend in a gown and pigtails who was married, and her constantly appearing with her gibbons, Mr and Mrs Mills.

This is a fascinating story which certainly led me to want to know even more about Emily Hahn.

I received this free ebook via Net Galley

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

One Day in France Tragedy and Betrayal in an Occupied Village by Jean-Marie Borzeix, translated by Gay McAuley, with a foreword by Caroline Moorehead

This is a harrowing account of atrocities committed by the Nazis in the Haute-Correze district of France.  Borzeix's research into four men who were shot there on Holy Thursday led him to discover the stories of other Jewish people, including Resistance fighters, and a search for descendants scattered across the world.

It's a moving but very sad tale which shows the importance of memory and discovering the truth. The Nazis had an obsessive desire to cover up their crimes, so finding out the names of those who were killed and providing them with memorials constitutes a triumph.  I also liked the descriptions of Borzeix's research and his meetings with the family members.

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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde

After midwife Emily has an argument with a doctor over home births, she decides to accept her friend Rebecca's offer to work on her boat as a cook.  She enjoys the work and the beautiful Scottish coast and her independence.  After being unsuccessful in love, she is certainly not anxious to have her heart broken again! But she finds herself struggling with her attraction to Alasdair,, a handsome doctor. However, he has a mysterious past life...

I once read that reading Maeve Binchy's books was like having a relaxing cup of tea.  Katie Fforde's sweet romantic novels are similar.  I didn't like this one as much as most of her others, unfortunately.  I loved the vivid descriptions of the vivid Scottish scenery, but I started to find the romance a little bit dull towards the end.  I think that this novel was a bit too much like a long short story.

When I was overseas, I read The Rose Revived and I enjoyed that more.

Katie Fforde on Romantic Fiction

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

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Bonjour Kale by Kristen Beddard


When Kristen Beddard  first arrived  in Paris with her husband, she quickly started getting depressed.  She missed her high-powered life in New York and drinking with her girlfriends.  She struggled to speak French and she started having arguments with her husband because she wasn't the career girl with whom he fell in love.  She was also very sad about her mother-in-law who was dying of cancer.

The fact that she couldn't find the kale that she loved didn't help matters! Kristen had been brought up to eat healthy foods and her mother made delicious recipes. Many of them included kale. She tried bringing back lots of kale from New York but it turned into a disaster because her luggage was lost so it turned putrid and smelly! It was dreadful to go to the markets and see beautiful thin green asparagus and piles of green peas still in their shells but no healthy kale. Kristen eventually got so fed up with the situation that she decided to do something about it herself and she began The Kale Project.

I don't actually like kale - I just love spinach - so the title put me off a bit at first.  I was even upset when I had to buy kale instead of spinach the other day! However, I loved this enchanting story about living in a different country, learning a new language and finding a new opportunity. The recipes also look tempting. It's also a moving love story with a surprising amount of depth. The blog looks great as well.  I may even start liking kale now!

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

This is a great clip but read the book first.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Book Blogger Platform Barb Drozdowich Booktrope

This is a great book for book bloggers! It includes chapters on which blog platform to use, the pages which you should have on your blog and using social media.  Barb Drozdowich also discusses how to use social media, how to join the 'conversation' with other book bloggers and different ways of earning money from your blog.

This is highly recommended.

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

London's West End Actresses and the Origins of Celebrity Charity, 1880-1920 Catherine Hindson University of Iowa Press

I am afraid that I didn't finish this book, although the subject was interesting.  The writing was very academic.  It would be a useful reference work.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Harriet Quimby by Leslie Kerr

This book about the amazing Harriet Quimby was a joy to read.  Harriet was the first American woman to obtain her driver's licence and her pilot's licence and the first woman to fly across the Channel, as well as being an intrepid investigative journalist who travelled all over the world.  She was also beautiful and fashionable. She even designed an attractive plum jumpsuit with a hood to wear when flying!

This interesting book by Leslie Kerr would be an inspiring present for a teenage girl who wants to take on the world!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sugarland by Martha Conway

Al Capone byy Chicago Bureau (Federal Bureau of Investigation) - Wide World Photos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Eve, a talented black jazz pianist, returns to Chicago to take refuge with her sister after she gets involved in the accidental killing of a bootlegger.  Here, she finds herself in a sinister but exciting world of 1920s jazz nightclubs, gangs and mysteries as she attempts to find out where her sister, Chickie, has gone.

This was a riveting and well-written novel about jazz, bootlegging and murder in 1920s Chicago, but I found the actual mystery a bit complicated.  However, Martha Conway certainly captured the atmosphere of the time and researched the history thoroughly.  I will be interested in reading more of her novels!

This ebook was provided free by Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart

Erica, an intrepid young and beautiful journalist has a wonderful new job in New York working for a large broadcasting firm and a handsome man who is attracted to her.  She should be on the top of the world! However, she has a sad past- she is a former alcoholic and she lost custody of her daughter. She also finds her new boss Nathan rather creepy.

When she starts attempting to discover who is behind an attack on the Staten Island ferry and who killed a woman presidential candidate, she puts herself in grave danger. She is not sure who she can trust.  She doesn't want to end up like Mark - a computer expert who studies the hacking of the ferry computers and winds up in hospital after a nasty attack.

This is a fast-paced thriller that is enjoyable and easy to read.  Erica is a likeable and ethical character, who is also vulmerable because of her unhappy childhood and drinking problem.  Most of the characters are well-rounded, but some of the villians are drawn in an unsubtle way.  I found the plot rather far-fetched and complicated, however, but anything is possible these days! This is the start of a series by the extremely talented Lis Wiehl who, I was pleased to see, studied a Master of Arts in Literature at The  University of Queensland.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Matters of Fact in Jane Austen

Janine Barchas  suggests that many of Jane Austen's fictions allude to real people, such as Regency celebrities, and she also studies references to the great gardener Evelyn and symbolism in some of Austen's works.  For example, Frederick Wentworth may have been named after the last Eart of Strafford who also rose from humble beginnings against all odds, and Louisa Musgrove's fall may have been based on Henrietta Wentworth who financed the Duke of Monmouth's failed rebellion at Lyme Regis.

Barchas also writes about Austen's playfulness in her use of names.  Austen probably named the naval families in Persuasion after great landed families of the time, for example, and she called the landed aristocrats after naval families.  This makes Persuasion less revolutionary than previously thought. Perhaps, Austen was hedging her bets and not as much in favour of Wentworth's self-made status as many critics thought.

This was interesting, but it became rather tiring at the end because there was just so much information in the book.  You really need to read it slowly and thoroughly to absorb it all!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Early Life of Anne Boleyn: A Critical Essay by J H Round

I usually love reading about the fascinating Anne, but this was extremely dull.  Round criticises the works of other scholars and sets out to prove that Mary was the older sister and that many historians got Anne's date of birth wrong.

Unless you're obsessed with Anne or the Tudors, don't bother.

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

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

I couldn't read this at all.  Sillitoe just isn't my kind of writer, I am afraid.

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

There's Uncle Ernest, whose only friends are two teenage girls, a lascivious teacher, and a married man whose wife leaves him for a house painter but returns to take advantage of his good nature. These are just some of the characters featured in this collection of stories about the working-class or the dispossessed, although the most famous tale concerns a delinquent boy whose only escape from his grim life is long-distance running. Each story is very different.

Sillitoe's ability to write from the point of view of these diverse characters is amazing. The story about the long-distance runner is certainly memorable and has become a classic. However, I found them extremely dark and depressing, and Sillitoe really isn't my kind of writer, I am afraid. I may have liked it when I went through a phase of reading some of the 'Angry Young Men'  when I was much younger. However, if you like gritty stories about the English working-class, you will love this collection.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

How To Have A Good Day Harness The Power of Behavioral Science To Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb

This is an invaluable book which is full of helpful information derived from behavioural science. Webb uses the interplay between our brain's deliberate and automatic systems to assist readers to make the best use of their strengths and weaknesses. However, although she includes a useful summary at the end of each chapter, I think that there is so much in this book that it is hard to remember. Perhaps, it is best to work on one chapter at a time!

There are chapters on goal-setting, handling problems, creativity and building relationships. I especially liked her suggestions for thinking about dilemmas in different ways. She cites the example of Greg, a fundraiser, who sometimes invites his audience to think about finding new cancer drugs from the point of view from a cancer cell. Also, she uses the example of Emma, a young and enthusiastic English teacher who invited her colleagues to imagine themselves as modern teenagers, so that she could introduce modern methods of teaching.

I highly recommend this book, but it may be a good idea to write notes as you read it!

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

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Secret War by Max Hastings

This highly ambitious history of global intelligence during The Second World War is well-written and thoroughly researched with interesting anecdotes about strange characters, such as Sorge, a hard-drinking and womanising Russian who set up a spy network in Japan and the Maverick academic Hugh Trevor-Roper. However, I have decided not to go on with it. It's just too long and I am mostly interested in the French Resistance.

The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson

I am still struggling through this, I am afraid. The writing is haunting and ethereal, but I am finding the story rather confusing and obscure. Also, it is very anti-British in a nasty sort of way, I feel. However, I will trySuzanne Joinson's first book because that was highly praised.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Long Weekend Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939 Adrian Tinniswood

This is a thoroughly researched and well-written account by Adrian Tinniswoodabout this era.  Although the aristocracy lost many of their sons in the war and several great houses were sold and turned into institutions such as schools, this is not entirely a tale of woe.  Lots of new country houses were built and some of these even had surprisingly modern architecture and new traditions were formed to replace the rigidly formal old ones

There are some interesting anecdotes in this book.  For example, Buckingham Palace was built because the Prince Regent wanted a pied a'terre and Queen Alexandra insisted on staying at the large house at Sandringham and made King George stay in the much smaller York house with his family of six. He didn't have the heart to make her leave! However, there is much more focus on the architecture and interior design of the houses than on the people who lived there, I thought.  I would have liked to read more about the people.

This is a good book to read if you are interested in the English country house during this time.
I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rosetta A Scandalous True Story by Alexandra Joel

(Empress Eugenie painted by Winterhalter, Wikipedia)

This intriguing story of Alexandra Joel's 'wicked' great-grandmother reads like a novel.  It's a fascinating Edwardian tale.

Beautiful dark-eyed Rosetta broke every social convention in Edwardian Australia by leaving her husband and daughter for an oriental fortune-teller.  Unhappily married, Rosetta immediately fell for the charming exotic half-Chinese Zeno and her new life began... They worked at Sydney's amazing Wonderland City for a while, but true success came when they 'ran off' to London where Zeno pretended to be a Japanese professor and started rejuvenating radiation treatments and Rosetta pretended to be an American! These treatments became popular with aristocrats such as Lady Diana Cooper and even royalty. Princess Charlotte of Prussia and even former Empress Eugenie were clients.

Joel combines this tale with the details of her detective-like search for Rosetta in a moving way. Questions about her great-grandmother remained in the back of her mind, and she felt that the fact that Rosetta had deserted her only child was part of her identity so one day she decided to search for the truth...

I just loved this book. This is highly recommended for lovers of biography and history.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blackstone And The Rendezvous With Death

Blackstone, a Scotland Yard detective, feels that he is somewhat out of his depth when he has to deal with the death of a young aristocrat. Why is Charles's sister the only one who appears to care about him? What has her fiancée got to do with it? What is the involvement of the Russians?

This is an excellent mystery with likeable characters, a vivid Victorian atmosphere and interesting details of London's Little Russia. Sally Spencer also examines the class-consciousness of the age in this well-written novel which is part of the Endeavour Press Virtual History Festival .

Monday, April 18, 2016

Villa Normandie by Kevin Doherty

A French Resistance leader who has to cope with the death of her brother and two rebellious daughters, a priest who tries to mediate between the Nazis and the villagers and an archeologist who never fails in his missions to France. These are the main characters in Doherty's wonderful thriller which captures the tense atmosphere of the run-up to D-Day and the misery of the French villagers with lyrical writing.

Even though this novel is very long, it is always exciting and it even has some added history about archeology which I enjoyed. It is extremely harrowing, however, so be prepared for that.

I was given this free book by Endeavour Oress in exchange for an honest review because I joined their Virtual Historical Festival.